Benghazi: At least 18 people were killed on Friday as Islamists and pro-government forces clashed in Libya’s second city of Benghazi, hospital sources said.

Benghazi Medical Centre said the dead were mostly soldiers and civilians fighting alongside the army in the central district of Al Majouri.

At least 52 people have been killed since forces of retired general Khalifa Haftar, backed by army units, on Wednesday launched what he called an operation to “liberate” Benghazi from Islamist militias, according to hospital figures.

An AFP correspondent in the eastern city said Friday’s clashes were the fiercest since the start of the operation.

Al Majouri is home to the leader of the Ansar Al Sharia militant group, Mohammad Al Zehawi, and many of his men.

Residents said the two sides used weapons of all calibres in street fighting in a densely-populated district.

Air raids also struck Islamist targets in the districts of Al Lithi, Al Massaken et Bouatni, south-east of the Mediterranean city, witnesses said.

Islamist militias have seized control of large parts of turmoil-gripped Libya since a 2011 uprising against long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.