BEIRUT - A CROWD 'violently attacked' a team of UN investigators gathering evidence on Wednesday in the death of a former Lebanese prime minister and stole several items from them, authorities said.

The two investigators and an interpreter received medical attention, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The melee at a private clinic in Beirut underscored the charged emotions behind the international tribunal looking into Rafik Hariri's 2005 assassination, and it raised concerns about intimidation and interference in the probe.

'Those who carried out this attack must know that violence will not deter the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a court of law, from fulfilling its mandate,' said a statement from the tribunal's president, Judge Antonio Cassese.

The Hague-based court said the visit had been arranged in advance 'in accordance with legal safeguards' and that members of the judicial police and the army accompanied the investigators.

'During the meeting, a large group of people showed up unexpectedly and violently attacked the investigators and their female interpreter,' the statement said. The Lebanese army 'extracted' the staffers and they received medical attention. The statement also said several items were stolen, but it did not elaborate.

The tribunal has not yet indicted any suspects in the assassination, but speculation that the court could name members of the Hezbollah militant group has raised fears of violence between the heavily armed Shi'ite guerrilla force and Hariri's mainly Sunni allies.

Beirut crowd attacks UN staff