Merkel: Arming Kurds in Germany's interest

By the Associated Press | September 1, 2014 | 2:05 PM EDT

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2009 file picture a German armored infantry vehicle Dingo takes part in a combat training in Letzlingen, eastern Germany. 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. Chancellor Angela Merkel has told German lawmakers Monday Sept.1, 2014 that arming Kurdish fighters battling Islamic extremists in Iraq wasn't an easy decision but is in her country's interest. (AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz,File)

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel has told lawmakers that it's in Germany's interests to arm the Kurdish fighters who are battling Islamic extremists in Iraq.

The government decided Sunday to send 16,000 assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, hundreds of anti-tank weapons and several armored vehicles to forces fighting the Islamic State group, breaking with Germany's previous reluctance to send weapons into conflicts.

Merkel on Monday told a special session of parliament the decision was "very carefully weighed."

She said German officials faced a choice between "taking no risks, not delivering (weapons) and ultimately accepting the expansion of terror" or supporting those fighting the extremists.

Merkel said "the immense suffering of many people cries out and our own security interests are threatened."

Parliament held a non-binding vote, approving the move. Some opposition lawmakers objected, however, warning that the weapons could end up in the wrong hands.

A video published online Sunday showed what appeared to be anti-tank missiles with German inscriptions at the site of a Syrian government air base that was captured by fighters from the Islamic State group last week.

The video couldn't immediately be verified but appeared to be consistent with events on the ground.

German daily Die Welt reported Monday that the missiles were made by the former Franco-German consortium Euromissile and supplied to Syria in 1981 for use with combat helicopters.