Fatah Islam's No. 2 Killed in Fighting With Lebanese Troops

The No. 2 commander of Al Qaeda-inspired militants battling Lebanese troops was killed in the fighting in recent days, the group said in a statement posted on an Islamic Web site.

Fatah Islam said its deputy commander known as Abu Hureira has been killed in the fighting around a refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The statement gave no details as to the circumstances of his death.

The group said it was bringing the "good news to the Muslims of the martyrdom of a noble brother," according to the statement.

"We in the Fatah Islam movement and all the true mujahideen, pledge to God to avenge our brother's blood from the infidels and the renegades,"

The authenticity of the statement, posted on a Web site which commonly carries messages from Al Qaeda and other militant groups, could not be independently confirmed.

On Monday, the government said police had killed Abu Hureira, a Lebanese whose real name is Shehab al-Qaddour.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi had said Abu Hureira was killed a few days ago by police in Tripoli, near the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared which is located on the city's outskirts.

Also on Wednesday, the Lebanese army said two more soldiers have died in the fighting. The army said in a statement one was killed Wednesday and the other died Tuesday "while carrying out their military duty" at Nahr el-Bared.

Their deaths raised to 136 the number of troops who have died since fighting between the army and Fatah Islam erupted on May 20.

The Nahr el-Bared fighting has dragged on to become Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war. In addition to the soldiers killed, an undetermined number of militants and more than 20 civilians have lost their lives.

The army has refused to halt its offensive until the militants completely surrender, but the gunmen have vowed to fight to the death.

The whereabouts of Abu Hureira and the Fatah Islam leader, Shaker Youssef Absi, have been unknown since fighting broke out. Absi's whereabouts remain unknown.