A fleeing Iraqi girl cries after settling with her family near a Kurdish checkpoint, in the Khazer area between the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Kurdish city of Irbil, northern Iraq June 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
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Hundreds of villagers fleeing advances by Sunni militants in Iraq crowded Thursday under the morning sun at a checkpoint on the edge of the country's Kurdish-controlled territory, trying to join large numbers of displaced who have already sought shelter in the relative safety of the largely autonomous region.Many of those seeking shelter were Shiite Turkmen from villages outside Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul, overrun earlier this month by fighters led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Sunni extremist group that has seized large swaths of Iraq and seeks to carve out a purist Islamic enclave across both sides of the Syria-Iraq border. Elsewhere, pro-government forces Wednesday battled Sunni militants threatening a major military air base in Balad, north of Baghdad, military officials said.American and Iraqi military officials Wednesday confirmed that Syrian warplanes bombed Sunni militants' positions inside Iraq, deepening the concerns that the extremist insurgency spanning the two neighboring countries could morph into an even wider regional conflict. The involvement of Syria and Iran in Iraq suggests a growing cooperation among the three Shiite-led governments in response to the raging Sunni insurgency. And in an unusual twist, the U.S., Iran and Syria now find themselves with an overlapping interest in stabilizing Iraq's government.
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