Seven soldiers were killed and at least 18 others are missing after an alleged Islamic State group ambush on the desert road between the eastern cities of Tobruk and Ajdabiya.
The surprise attack took place on Friday at a military checkpoint between the two cities. Military sources blamed a convoy of IS militants thought to be moving from the area of Derna, where they have lost their stronghold.
Five were killed in the initial assault, a further two died when military reinforcements arrived and clashes erupted.
“Fighting is continuing some 100 kilometers outside Ajdabiya,” one official said.
Some 18 soldiers are still missing, it is not known if they were taken or whether they escaped into the desert.
IS fighters have been driven from their stronghold in the east by rival jihadists groups and angry residents. But they have seized territory in the centre of the country, galvanizing their grip on a 200km stretch of coast near Sirte.
Without a functioning police force or local council in Derna, the Libyan Boy Scouts have filled. On Friday photographs of the youth group cleaning streets, directing traffic and burying dead IS fighters were spread on social media.