Lebanese protests test Hezbollah’s role as Shiites’ champion

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BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual, overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah.

The Shiite militant group has long enjoyed a reputation among its supporters as a champion of the poor and defender of the country against Israel. That’s helped it dominate Lebanon’s political scene.

But now protesters want that entire political elite out — including Hezbollah — and even some among its Shiite supporters are angry over economic woes.

Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal party, have enjoyed overwhelming backing among the Shiite community since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, making them a political powerhouse that has dominated recent governments.

But now many protesters group Hezbollah into the ruling class that they are revolting against and blame for wrecking the economy with years of corruption and mismanagement.

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