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Other News: Oil Prices Fall, Bomber Kills 9 in Afghanistan

March 30, 2009 at 6:15 PM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: In other news today, the price of oil plunged, fed by worry about the state of the auto companies and the economy in general. It dropped well over 7 percent in New York trading to settle at $48.41 a barrel. The price had been climbing despite huge reserves of oil in storage.

A suicide bomber in southern Afghanistan killed nine people today. The attacker wore a police uniform and blew himself up inside a police headquarters just south of Kandahar City. The attack came as 72 nations convened in the Netherlands to discuss mounting a broader international effort in Afghanistan.

Across the border in Pakistan, at least a dozen people were killed in a siege at a police academy on the outskirts of Lahore. We have a report narrated by Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: It was a hollow victory for these Pakistani police commandos, standing on the roof of their own police academy after an eight-hour battle to recapture it from a small band of gunmen.

And lying on the ground, the bodies of their dead colleagues. Eight policemen were killed and dozens injured, most of them new recruits. This attack apparently timed to coincide with morning drill, when hundreds were out on parade.

PAKISTANI POLICEMAN (through translator): We were in the parade ground when many people entered and started firing at us. Then they ran behind the walls, and 40 or 50 of us went to hide.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: As commandos closed in, three of the militants blew themselves up. The commandos said the militants were armed with light machine guns and hand grenades, as well as suicide vests. For hours, they held dozens of policemen hostage, though some of the recruits escaped through the compound gates while snipers moved in.

Two of the alleged gunmen were caught, and one of the suspects was seen being roughed up as he was taken into custody.

Eyewitnesses said some of the attackers spoke with southern Punjabi accents, evidence perhaps of how extremists are no longer confined to the Afghan border.

And their tactics suggest they may be from the same group which attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team, also in Lahore, just a few weeks ago.

GWEN IFILL: The government blamed the Taliban for today’s attack, and a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for an affiliated group.

In Iraq, there was new tension between leaders of Sunni paramilitary groups and the Shiite-led government. The Sunni Awakening Councils accused the government of planning a crackdown. Over the weekend, the arrest of one Sunni leader in Baghdad led to an uprising. Iraqi soldiers later regained control.

Also today, a second American soldier was convicted in the execution-style killings of four Iraqis in 2007. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

A genocide tribunal in Cambodia has begun hearing the case against the chief torturer for the Khmer Rouge. The suspect, known as “Duch,” is now 66 years old. He’s the first member of the guerrilla group to face justice 30 years after its reign of terror. The indictment charged atrocities that led to the deaths of thousands of people.

Investigators in North Carolina searched for a motive today in the Sunday assault shootings at a nursing home. Police said Robert Stewart opened fire in the Pinelake Health and Rehabilitation Center in Carthage. He allegedly shot and killed seven residents and a nurse before an officer wounded him in a shootout. That policeman was shot three times in the leg. He was hailed today as a hero.

CHRIS MCKENZIE, Chief, Carthage Police Department: Whether or not he realizes it now, he will hopefully some day realize how many lives he actually saved. I don’t know that anybody here can understand what it takes for a single officer to enter a facility of any kind with that situation surrounding him and to forge ahead and do his job. And that’s just phenomenal.

GWEN IFILL: It was unclear what triggered the assault, but investigators said Stewart’s estranged wife works at the facility.

The Obama administration has announced new curbs on private insurance plans covered under Medicare. It follows criticism over marketing abuses and the cost to the government. The new rules reduce the number of plans insurers are allowed to offer and discourage companies from shifting costs to patients with chronic diseases.

The rules also ban charging seniors more for brand-name drugs. Twenty-seven million Americans are covered under these types of private medical or drug plans.

More than 2 million acres of wilderness will come under federal protection thanks to a new law signed today. It will cover parts of nine states, including California’s Sierra Nevada and Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest. The measure, signed today at the White House, is one of the largest expansions of wilderness protection in a quarter-century.