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Published: Saturday August 16, 2014 MYT 1:50:02 AM
Updated: Saturday August 16, 2014 MYT 1:51:05 AM

Canada sending two cargo planes to help deliver weapons to Kurds

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is sending two military cargo planes to Iraq to help deliver weapons to Iraqi Kurds who are battling Islamic militants, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.

The United States has asked European countries to supply arms and ammunition to forces in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, according to U.S. and European officials.

Harper said Canada was prepared to provide further assistance to the Kurdish fighters, who are struggling against better-armed militants from the Islamic State group.

Two Canadian air force transport planes - a Hercules and a Globemaster - were on their way to Iraq along with a 30-strong military crew, he said in a statement.

"Canada will not stand idly by while the Islamic State continues its murder of innocent civilians and religious minorities," he said.

"We continue to monitor the situation in Iraq and are prepared to provide further assistance," he added, but gave no details.

The European Union said earlier on Friday individual member states were free to send weapons to the Iraqi Kurds.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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