At least 3 dead; LAF deployed to help calm worst violence since 2008.
Shi’ite and Sunni groups traded machine gun fire and grenades in Beirut on Tuesday, killing [three] people and wounding several others just blocks from a busy downtown packed with tourists.
...The shootout erupted between supporters of the Shi’ite Hizbullah and a Sunni conservative group in the mixed residential area of Bourj Abu Haidar near Beirut’s downtown, security officials said.
Hizbullah was battling the pro-Syrian Sunni Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, known as the Al-Ahbash group, which has a history of feuding with the Shi’ite group, they added.
The officials said Muhammad Fawaz, the local Hizbullah commander in Bourj Abu Haidar, had been killed along with his subordinate Ali Jouaz. Fawaz Omeirat of Al-Ahbash was also killed in the fighting.
...According to Lebanese paper Al-Akhabr, the clash started when Al-Ahbash members tried to bar Hizbullah men from passing through a neighborhood where the Sunni group holds control.
Shortly afterward, Shi’ite supporters of Hizbullah and sister organization Amal set fire to a Sunni mosque in the nearby neighborhood of Basta, according to an AP photographer.
...Local Lebanese media said rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns were used.
...It was the worst clash since May 2008, when Hizbullah gunmen swept through Sunni neighborhoods of Beirut after the pro-Western government tried to dismantle the group’s telecommunications network. The fighting at the time brought the country to the brink of a new civil war. Lebanon has a history of deadly sectarian strife.
Tensions have been running high in recent weeks over signs a UN tribunal could indict Hizbullah members in the 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri...
*AP and Bloomberg contributed to this report.