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MOSUL, Iraq — A standoff is setting in along a 600-mile stretch of territory between the Kurdistan region of Iraq and the swath of land controlled by the Sunni militants who are sweeping parts of the country.
The stare-down is so tense that in some places only a few hundred yards separate the Kurds and the Sunni militants, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
NBC News made it to the last checkpoint under Kurdish control on the outskirts of Mosul, the northern Iraqi city seized by ISIS insurgents earlier this month.
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Just 300 yards away, fighters belonging to ISIS have overtaken commercial buildings and are using them as overlooks and sniper positions, according to the Kurdish officer who commands the checkpoint.
While the checkpoint is relatively calm, Kurdish forces say ISIS has occasionally fired at it. For now, Kurdish positions along this stretch of territory have been reinforced with the mobilization of 40,000 peshmerga, the Kurdish paramilitary force.
A week after Mosul fell into the hands of ISIS fighters and local sympathizers, several people leaving the city through the Kokjali checkpoint told NBC News that life was returning to normal.
ISIS fighters were keeping a low profile in the city, with only a single checkpoint on the road leading out of Mosul into Erbil.
One passenger, a local goods trader who was leaving Mosul and heading toward Erbil, described a normal city. He was allowed to enter his warehouse and load his products before heading to Erbil to sell them.
Another family, also on their way out of Mosul, said they were very comfortable under ISIS rule and were not afraid for their safety.
Yet despite the presence of ISIS fighters at the crossing, traffic was flowing smoothly — although most cars heading from Mosul were being searched and passengers were being questioned.
Along the road, nearby residents were setting up small jerry-cans of gasoline to sell on the black market to cars coming out of Mosul. There is a fuel crisis across the country, and lines at gas stations are sometimes six hours long.
The Kurdistan regional government has been rationing fuel to meet demand, but that has also created a black market. People complained of power cuts and no running water across the communities along the road connecting Mosul and Erbil.