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Iraqi Kurdistan safe despite violence in neighbouring cities

Iraqi Kurdistan remains relatively safe and stable so far despite violence in the country's second largest city Mosul and neighbouring Syria.

ERBIL: As Jihadist groups become increasingly entrenched in Syria's war, the rest of the Middle East is suffering the fallout.

In Iraq, Jihadist militants have made staggering gains in recent days, capturing the country's second largest city Mosul and a host of smaller towns.

But a short drive from Mosul's mayhem, Iraqi Kurdistan remains relatively safe and stable so far.

Ghazi Saadi makes a living exchanging currency in Erbil, the capital city of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.

Thick wads of cash -- dollars, pounds, and Euros -- are quickly changing hands.

Trades are carried out in the open with little protection, but that does not seem to bother the dealers.

Ghazi Saadi said: "Millions of dollars are exchanged here every day. The safety we feel in handling money might not be even found in banks in Europe or other countries."

In Iraqi Kurdistan, neighbouring conflicts seem very far away.

The traditional bazaar and modern malls host thousands of visitors every day. And as night falls, many come to Iskan Street for a treat.

Erbil and other Kurdish cities are considerably safe and stable, but just a few dozen miles away, violent attacks and bombings are a daily affair.

Mosul was recently taken over by militants from the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

But Kurdish security forces have succeeded in shielding their region from the violence.

Captain Kosrat Shekhani and his emergency police force are one of many similar forces that organise patrols at night.

They are the first responders to any incident that might occur -- from a casual street fight to an act of terrorism.

Captain Kosrat Shekhani, from the Erbil Emergency Police, said: "We have very good relations with the local population. They inform us if they see anything suspicious like a car, or an incident."

Although Iraqi Kurdistan has stayed safe so far, rising levels of violence in neighbouring provinces of Iraq and Syria have not gone unnoticed.

Sherko Jawdat, Member of Kurdistan Parliament, said: "We can't say that it is secure 100 per cent. Everything is possible. So we must be ready to protect ourselves."

It is not just security that is at stake -- Iraqi Kurdistan's relative stability has secured over US$30 billion in investment from home and abroad.

But as Jihadist groups gain more territory in Iraq, Kurdistan's stability and economic boom are facing serious challenges.

Back in downtown Erbil, it is business as usual. For the crowd in the city, their primary concern is money, not war. 

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