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Recently France witnessed a terror-strike. On Sky News, the news has a following line:

It was initially hoped that all hostages in the shop had been saved - but it is now clear that a number died.

Now, I wonder that, shouldn't it be: "number of them died" or "a few died"?

I am confused about this usage-"a number died".

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This is perfectly correct English. It's an ellipsis. It's understood as:

...but it is now clear that a number [of the hostages has] died.

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