Kurdish general tells ITV News: British arms are needed to defeat IS militants

ITV News spoke to a general of Kurdish forces who said t hat ammunition was a problem Credit: ITV News

Kurdish forces need more military hardware and would welcome air strikes in their effort to hold back Islamist militants, a general has told ITV News.

Islamic State fighters have swept across northern Iraq capturing towns with a speed that has taken the region by surprise. While the Kurdish forces and US air strikes have slowed their progress, there is little sign of a retreat.

ITV News presenter Mark Austin joined a Kurdish unit fighting militants outside the city of Irbil and found that they were using hardware from the 1950s.

The general was clear that military intervention, including air strikes, by the British would be welcomed, in addition to ammunition and arms.

The UK Government has only committed to transporting arms and other supplies to Kurdish fighters, but there have been indication that it would be willing to go further.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has been urging a coordinated European response to the crisis at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Before the meeting he said: "The UK has said we will also consider favourably any requests for supplies of arms. We are already shipping ammunition and supplies from other eastern European countries into Irbil".

An RAF Tornado jet at a British base in Cyprus Credit: ITV News

There has been no united position among EU leaders to all send arms to the Kurdish Peshmerga, but individual member states are free to do so.

French President Francois Hollande has already committed to the "imminent delivery of military equipment" in a phone call with Iraqi President Fouad Massoum.

RAF Tornado jets and Chinook helicopters remain stationed in Cyprus in case they are needed for humanitarian or other missions in northern Iraq.