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Iraqi army claims progress in Anbar province battles as car bombs kill 18 around Baghdad

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BAGHDAD — Iraq's army announced it was making progress in the battle against Islamic State militants in Anbar province Sunday even as it struggled to retake territory lost over the weekend and a string of bombings rocked the capital.

After driving militants out of the northern city of Tikrit earlier this month, Iraqi forces have turned their attention to Anbar province, large parts of which have been under Islamic State control for more than a year. The see-saw conflict has seen both sides take and lose territory.

Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi said on Iraqi television that the army has achieved "90 percent" of its objectives in the town of Garma, between Baghdad and the IS-held city of Fallujah. He added that an operation had been launched to retake the water control station on a canal lost over the weekend.

"Our bold military units in Anbar are still holding their positions," he said. "In the coming days, we will implement a well-organized plan to attack the enemy and drive it out of its positions seized in Anbar."

PHOTO: Civilians and security forces gather at the scene of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad's southwestern Amil neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, April 26, 2015. Car bombs ripped through commercial areas in and around the Iraqi capital on Sunday, killing and wounding civilians, officials said.  (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
Civilians and security forces gather at the scene of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad's southwestern Amil neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, April 26, 2015. Car bombs ripped through commercial areas in and around the Iraqi capital on Sunday, killing and wounding civilians, officials said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The attack on the water control station on the canal between Lake Tharthar and the Euphrates River late Friday was a setback for the Iraqi military, killing the general commanding the 1st Division and a dozen other officers and soldiers. Al-Obeidi said eight soldiers lost in the fighting had been recovered.

He also raised the death toll for the number of soldiers killed in a triple car bomb attack on the desert border crossing with Jordan to seven.

Militants in Baghdad also kept up the pressure on the Iraqi government with a string of bombing attacks in and around the capital that killed at least 18 people.

Medical officials confirmed the death toll. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

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Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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PHOTO: Civilians gather at the scene of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad's southwestern Amil neighborhood in Iraq, Sunday, April 26, 2015. Car bombs ripped through commercial areas in and around the Iraqi capital on Sunday, killing and wounding civilians, officials said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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