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Libyan forces suffer high casualties in clash with 'Islamic State'

In one of the most intense clashes of recent weeks, dozens of Libyan pro-government militiamen have been killed fighting 'IS.' The fighting is part of a government offensive to retake the city of Sirte.

In one of the most intense clashes of recent weeks, dozens of Libyan pro-government militiamen have been killed fighting 'IS.' The fighting is part of a government offensive to retake the city of Sirte.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Libyan pro-government forces confirmed that clashes with the so-called 'Islamic State' (IS) on Tuesday had left over 60 people dead.

Watch video 01:09

Libyan militia troops retake Sirte from IS

While many of the dead were killed in fighting in Sirte, an explosion at a depot near Tripoli killed several more.

The Libyan militiamen, aligned with the new UN-backed Libyan government, have been on an offensive to retake Sirte since May. In recent days, they've faced particular

resistance from IS fighters

.

"The resistance was fierce and they were firing with everything they've got, mortars, rockets and rifles," said Abdalla Binrasali, a spokesperson for the militia, in Misrata. "They fear that if they lose more ground they will be defeated."

In an interview with the dpa news agency, another official with the government fighters placed the death toll from Tuesday at 84.

Sirte is seen as a particularly important city as it links the eastern and western parts of the country. The coastal town is situated 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Tripoli and was seized by IS in June last year. It is also the hometown of slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya has fallen into chaos after

Gadhafi was ousted and killed

in October 2011.

Two governments are vying for power

and armed groups battle for control of the country's large energy resources.

mz/kl (dpa, Reuters, AP)

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