Iraqi forces have gained ground against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) near al-Tharthar in Anbar province, but suffered casualties in suicide attacks carried out by the armed group, the Iraqi defence ministry has said.

In a press release on Friday, the ministry said that its forces, joined by members of Shia militias known as

Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), killed at least 15 ISIL fighters and detonated 70 planted bombs.

At least 47 ISIL fighters were killed in air strikes conducted by the Iraqi army, the ministry said.

"Our troops were able to advance on their targets in our operation to recapture Anbar.... We were also able to evacuate 15 houses which had explosives in them," the defence ministry spokesman said.

"Iraqi warplanes targeted ISIL's arms storage. We were able to recapture the main highway out of Anbar province. Several other ISIL military bases were targeted, including ISIL checkpoints."


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An Iraqi military sources told Al Jazeera that at least 77 Iraqi troops were killed in the two suicide attacks blamed on ISIL. At least four civilians were also killed in the attacks while several others were injured.

On Thursday, a series of suicide car bombings rocked north and east of Fallujah in Anbar province, targeting Iraqi security forces and the PMF, military sources said.
US criticises Iraqi government for Ramadi loss

At least 113 Iraqi troops and PMF members were killed in the attacks on Thursday, while another 106 were injured.

US trained soldiers deployed

Iraq has for the first time deployed soldiers trained by the US-led coalition in their campaign to retake the city of Ramadi from ISIL, the US military said on Thursday.

The disclosure came during an unannounced visit by US Defence Secretary Ash Carter to Baghdad, where he met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi and underscored the need for capable Iraqi ground forces to battle back ISIL.

"We're making some progress. We need to make more," Carter told US troops gathered at the Baghdad airport.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters traveling with Carter that the roughly 3,000 coalition-trained soldiers joined the Ramadi operation in recent days.

The US estimates there are about 1,000 to 2,000 ISIL fighters in Ramadi, Warren said.

ISIL seized Anbar's capital Ramadi two months ago, extending its control over the Euphrates valley west of Baghdad and dealing a major setback to Abbadi and the US-backed army he entrusted with its defence.

The fall of Ramadi was the Iraqi army's worst defeat since ISIL swept through north Iraq last summer.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies