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September 19, 2006 3:00 AM

People of southern Lebanon bound to Hezbollah

Even Sahar Bajouk was surprised to learn how many men in her village had belonged to Hezbollah. Her brothers stayed to fight the Israelis. So did her high school crush, whose initials shed etched into her hand with a pin from her head scarf. Her history teacher died in battle, along with an administrator from her school and several of her neighbors: an architect, a restaurateur, a college student and a shopkeeper. Together theyd helped turn this quiet tobacco-farming community into a key base for one of the most sophisticated militant Islamic groups in the world. A memorial service this past weekend showed that support for Hezbollah remains deep, a month after a cease-fire ended 34 days of fighting between the militant group and Israel. It also suggests how difficult it is to separate Islamic militants from the rest of the population, not only in Lebanon but also in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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