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Student Hostages Released in Pakistan


Pakistani officials said students and teachers kidnapped by Taliban earlier this week in the northwest have been freed.

The officials said 46 students and two teachers were released after negotiations by tribal elders.

Also in the northwest, police said militants blew up a girls' school about 10 kilometers south of Peshawar. There were no reported casualties as the schools were closed for the season.

In a separate development Thursday, U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke visited refugees who have fled the conflict between the Pakistani military and Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley region.

He toured a camp in Mardan, in northwest Pakistan, hearing from displaced citizens and discussing their need for security and humanitarian aid.

On Wednesday, Holbrooke said the United States plans to give an additional $200 million to help some 2.5 million people displaced by recent fighting.

He praised the Pakistani army for its recent success in Swat and urged the international community to join in and do more to help create a democratic and secure Pakistan.

Pakistan's chief military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said Wednesday it may take two more months to completely expel the Taliban from the region.

Army commander General Ijaz Awan said the military may have to remain in the area for at least a year to maintain security.

Pakistani forces retook control of Swat's main town of Mingora last week. Awan said that, from a military standpoint, displaced civilians could start returning to Mingora, but that it will take weeks to restore the town's electricity and water supplies.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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