Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 | 7 p.m.
BERLIN — Germany will send high-end rifles, tank-busting weapons and armored vehicles to aid Kurdish fighters battling Islamic extremists in Iraq, officials said Sunday.
Germany's defense minister said the arms would be sent in three shipments, starting next month, and would initially be enough to equip a brigade of 4,000 Peshmerga fighters.
"This is in our security interest," Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Berlin.
Germany joins other European countries who have pledged to provide arms to the Kurds fighting the Islamic State group that has swept into northern Iraq in recent months.
In total, the shipments will include 8,000 G36 assault rifles and the same number of G3 rifles, as well as ammunition; 200 Panzerfaust 3 and 30 MILAN anti-tank systems; and five heavily armored Dingo infantry vehicles.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the arms would complement humanitarian aid that Berlin is sending to help civilians uprooted by the fighting. The decision to send weapons had been criticized by some in Germany as a return to militarism 75 years after the start of World War II
"This isn't an easy decision for us, but it's the right decision in a situation that is difficult in every way," Steinmeier said.
He voiced hope that Iraq's new government would seek to bring together all ethnic and religious groups in the country, including the Sunni minority, to fight the extremist threat.