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Other News: Markets Rise, 4 Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

June 1, 2009 at 6:15 PM EDT
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In other news, markets rose despite General Motors' bankruptcy filing, and four U.S. soldiers were killed in 2 separate roadside bombings west of Kabul.
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GWEN IFILL: In other news today, GM stock was dropped from the Dow Jones industrial average for the first time in 83 years.

But otherwise, the bankruptcy news had little effect on the markets. The Dow gained 221 points to close at 8,721 on hopeful signs about manufacturing and construction. The Nasdaq rose 54 points to close at 1,828.

The price of oil also surged higher again, topping $68 a barrel. And the AAA Auto Club reported the average price of gasoline rose to $2.50 a gallon overnight for the first time since October.

It was a deadly day for American troops in Afghanistan. Four U.S. soldiers died in two roadside bombings within miles of each other west of Kabul. U.S. officials have predicted a sharp increase in such attacks, as thousands of U.S. reinforcements deploy.

Across the border in Pakistan, Pakistani troops consolidated their hold in the Swat Valley and Buner district after a month-long offensive. The army said major towns and cities, including Mingora, have been recaptured, clearing the way for civilians to return.

We have a report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The men of Buner will have to get used to being checked for suicide bombs. In the eyes of the soldiers who now control this place, everyone is a potential Taliban fighter.

Flying the white flag to show they’re civilians, one family amongst thousands going home. The curfew has been lifted in daylight hours in Buner so people can move. They arrive in their village, Cheena. The head of the family said the government had said the area was clear, so he thinks they’re safe to return.

PAKISTANI MAN (through translator): We’re still facing lots of problems here. We have no electricity and no water, so we have to bring water from far away, but we want to live here, whatever the conditions.

LINDSEY HILSUM: But in a sign of the confusion reigning here, other families are still fleeing Buner, some after briefly returning to harvest their wheat.

PAKISTANI MAN (through translator): The government hasn’t told us that the area is clear. There’s no major fighting, but sometimes we still hear gunfire.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Rare footage of Commander Fateh, the Taliban leader in Buner, seen here when they took over in April. People say he’s fled to the mountains.

Here on the border of Buner and Swat, the soldiers say the Taliban are only 400 meters away. The army has to hold the places they’ve taken while driving the Taliban from their remaining strongholds and look after returning civilians at the same time.

OFFICER TAIMOOR, Pakistan Army (through translator): It’s not a military victory if we bring tanks and destroy everything. We have to care for the civilian population. We don’t want civilian casualties, nor to press on while allowing the Taliban to come back to this area.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The danger is that it will create more instability as the government struggles to control a shifting population of more than 2 million.

GWEN IFILL: The Pakistanis also reported that militants kidnapped at least 400 people at a boys school today. Officials said they were trying to divert attention from the government’s offensive.

In Iraq today, two separate bombings killed five people in the latest of a series of recent attacks. They happened in Baghdad and at a checkpoint 80 miles to the northeast. But the Iraqi government reported overall civilian deaths fell by nearly half in May to 134.

Crime in the U.S. fell last year by 2.5 percent overall. The FBI said today the drop was mostly in larger cities. Both violent and property crimes were down. Murders declined as much as 8 percent, and car theft fell more than 13 percent.

The unresolved U.S. Senate race in Minnesota has moved to the state Supreme Court. Lawyers for Republican Norm Coleman argued today too many absentee ballots were tossed out last November. Democrat Al Franken’s lawyers said Coleman has not provided enough evidence to back up his claim. Franken led by 312 votes after a recount.

The last survivor of the Titanic has died. Millvina Dean passed away Sunday at a nursing home in Southampton, England. Dean was just 9 weeks old in 1912 when the giant ship went down. The youngest passenger on board, she was wrapped in a sack and lowered into a lifeboat with her mother and brother. Her father perished in the disaster. Millvina Dean was 97 years old.