World briefs 3/29/06
Masked gunmen storm Baghdad businesses
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Masked gunmen, many in military uniform, stormed into a currency exchange and two electronic stores in broad daylight Tuesday, kidnapping 24 Iraqis and making off with tens of thousands of dollars. With 40 Iraqis taken hostage in less than 24 hours, politicians returned to talks on forming a government after a one-day boycott by Shiite leaders. The United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament, shunned talks Monday to protest a U.S.-backed raid on what Iraqis say was a mosque. At least 16 people were killed in the assault, which freed an Iraqi hostage. Dozens of other Iraqis were wounded and at least seven killed in drive-by shootings and car and roadside bombings Tuesday.
Prosecutors: Moussaoui offered to testify
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui offered last month to testify for prosecutors against himself at his death-penalty trial and told agents that he did not want to die in prison, according to last-minute testimony Tuesday. The bizarre testimony capped a trial that has seen more than its share of the unusual over three tumultuous weeks. Introduced as part of a brief government rebuttal case, this testimony may be the firmest evidence the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent hopes for martyrdom through execution and could provide fodder for the closing arguments of both prosecutors and Moussaoui's court-appointed defense attorneys. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema set this afternoon for closing arguments on whether the actions Moussaoui has admitted make him eligible for the death penalty.
Former Cabinet officer Weinberger dies
WASHINGTON -- Caspar W. Weinberger, who oversaw the Pentagon's biggest peacetime spending increase as President Reagan's defense secretary and later was indicted for his role in the Iran-Contra affair, died Tuesday. He was 88. Weinberger had been hospitalized in Bangor, Maine, with a high fever and pneumonia brought on by his age, according to his son, Caspar Weinberger Jr. President Bush called him "an American statesman and a dedicated public servant" who strengthened the military and helped end the Cold War.
Ex-Liberian warlord vanishes before handover
ABUJA, Nigeria -- Former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor slipped away just after Nigeria reluctantly agreed to transfer him to a war crimes tribunal. The Nigerian government said Taylor vanished Monday night from his villa in the southern city of Calabar, where he had lived in exile since being forced from power under a 2003 peace deal that ended Liberia's civil war. The announcement came three days after President Olusegun Obasanjo -- under pressure from Washington and others -- agreed to surrender Taylor to a U.N.-backed tribunal. He would be the first African leader to face trial for crimes against humanity.
-- From wire reports