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May 5, 2:39 PM EDT

Libya official: IS suicide bomber kills 5 militiamen in west

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BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) -- An Islamic State suicide bomber on Thursday rammed his car into a checkpoint in the country's west manned by a militia from the western city of Misrata, killing five militiamen, according to a Libyan militia leader in the city.

The militia leader told The Associated Press that the attack took place near the town of Abu-Qrain, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Misrata. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters. Mohammed Shamia, Misrata spokesman, said in an emailed statement that Misrata warplanes bombed IS positions nine times since the morning, destroying their vehicles, and killing their fighters.

In a statement claiming responsibility for the bombing, which was posted by IS supporters on Twitter, the group said one of its members, a Tunisian identified as Khabab al-Tunisi, blew up his truck at the checkpoint.

The IS statement claimed the explosion killed "all the forces there and opened the road" for the group to take control of villages in the surrounding area. It also claimed to have seized a number of armed vehicles.

It was not immediately possible to confirm whether IS controlled the town.

Misrata is home to one of the strongest militias in Libya, which played a key role in toppling late dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The IS affiliate that emerged in Libya has used the turmoil gripping the country in recent years, seizing the central coastal city of Sirte last year and creating its own stronghold there.

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