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Taliban Release 12 of 19 Hostages From South Korea

Bringing a six-week hostage ordeal closer to an end, the Taliban released 12 of 19 remaining South Korean hostages on Wednesday. The seven still in Taliban custody were widely expected to be released Thursday.

The hostages who were freed appeared to be in good health, according to Afghan tribal elders and Red Cross officials who helped obtain their freedom. The 12 Koreans, who had been held in separate locations, were released in three stages in Ghazni province, in central Afghanistan.

“They are in Ghazni city,” Haji Zaher, a local elder, said in a telephone interview. “They were healthy and very happy.”

After weeks of sporadic negotiations, a South Korean delegation and Taliban officials brokered an agreement on Tuesday for the hostages’ release. South Korea reaffirmed a pledge to withdraw its 200 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, as previously planned, and agreed to prevent any evangelical activities here by South Korean churches.

Clinton Donor Is California Fugitive

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign said on Wednesday it would give to charity $23,000 it had received from a prominent Democratic donor, and review thousands of dollars more that he raised, after learning that the authorities in California had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a 1991 fraud case.

The donor, Norman Hsu, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates since 2003, and was slated to play co-host next month for a Clinton gala featuring the entertainer Quincy Jones. The event would not have been unusual for Hsu, a businessman from Hong Kong who moves in circles of power and influence, serving on the board of a university in New York and helping to bankroll Democratic campaigns.