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Taliban abduct 11 civilians from downed helicopter

KABUL, Afghanistan — An emergency landing by a helicopter ferrying foreign engineers in eastern Afghanistan turned into a mass abduction by the Taliban, officials said on Monday, offering a stark reminder of the insurgents’ continuing hold on large parts of the countryside.

The aircraft was forced down late Sunday because of a storm, according to the Afghan transport company that operated it, and it had to land in an area of Logar province, Mangal Khel, that is almost entirely controlled by the Taliban. Although Logar borders Kabul and has a large and mostly U.S. base near the province’s capital, it also has a vast mountainous stretch that has become an insurgent haven, local officials said.

In all, 11 people were abducted, according to reports from the Turkish foreign ministry and Afghan government officials. They included eight Turkish engineers, one Afghan man and the two pilots of the Russian-made helicopter. One pilot was confirmed to be Russian; the other was either Russian or from Central Asia, but there were conflicting reports of his nationality.

“It’s a lot of people to take hostage — a lot of civilians,” said a senior Western official here, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It gives the Taliban bargaining chips, no question about that.”

—Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times

News Corp. agrees to settlement with shareholders

As News Corp. continues to negotiate settlements with victims of a phone-hacking scandal within its British newspaper division, its board Monday reached a $139 million settlement with a group of U.S. shareholders. The group had asserted that News Corp.’s board — led by Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive — breached its fiduciary responsibility in handling the crisis in Britain. The lawsuit also asserted that the company had unethically paid $670 million in 2011 to acquire Shine Group, the television production company of Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth Murdoch.

The suit was filed by Amalgamated Bank, the largest union-owned bank in the United States, which handles large-scale labor and pension funds.

News Corp. will not pay any of the $139 million settlement. Rather, the company will receive a payment from insurance that protects corporate boards from this type of litigation.

“We are proud of this historic settlement,” Edward Grebow, president and chief executive of Amalgamated Bank, said in a statement. The bank’s Longview Funds hold 455,343 Class A common shares of News Corp.

News Corp. indicated that the settlement would move it one step closer toward distancing itself from the hacking imbroglio that erupted in 2011.

—Amy Chozick, The New York Times