An Islamist field commander says that 18 militiamen have been killed in an attack on a western Libyan town.

The commander in the coalition of Islamist militias known as the Dawn of Libya said the rival Zintan militia, backed by local tribes loyal to renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter, launched the attack at dawn Saturday on the town of Kikla after heavy artillery strikes. He said 84 people were wounded

The Islamist militias seized Kikla two weeks ago, forcing the local tribal troops to retreat to the town's outskirts. Almost all of Kikla's 30,000 residents have fled.

The commander spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

Libya is witnessing its worst spasm of violence since dictator Moammar Gadhafi's downfall in the country's 2011 civil war.