Reuters International

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Four members of military forces loyal to Libya's new U.N.-backed unity government have been killed and 30 wounded in clashes with Islamic State (IS) insurgents near the western Libyan city of Misrata, a hospital spokesman said on Thursday.

Aziz Issa said the fighting was going on east of Assdada, around 80 km (50 miles) south of Misrata and the line of defence for brigades from the coastal city since IS militants captured several villages and checkpoints in the area late last week.

Assdada is also more than 150 km (90 miles) west of Sirte, Islamic State's stronghold in the widely lawless North African country since last year.

The largest of the Misrata-based brigades support the unity government that is now gradually trying to stamp its authority on the country beyond its base in the capital Tripoli.

Commanders of an operations room set up by unity government authorities in Misrata say they are preparing an offensive to recapture Sirte. After several days of calm, fighting broke out at Assdada late on Wednesday.

European powers and the United States hope the unity government will be able to unite Libya's rival political and armed factions to take on Islamic State.

But the unity government has struggled to win support from another administration based in eastern Libya and the military forces allied to it.

Islamic State controls a strip of more than 250 km (155 miles) of Libya's central Mediterranean coastline, from which it has launched attacks to the east, west and south.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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