A senior Iraqi military official said Tuesday the bodies of two missing U.S. soldiers have been found near the town where they went missing, but the U.S. military said it could not confirm the report.Japan ordered the withdrawal of its ground troops from Iraq on Tuesday, declaring the humanitarian mission a success. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the 600 non-combat troops — deployed in early 2004 — had helped rebuild infrastructure in the area where they were based, and he pledged further aid to Iraqi reconstruction.
At his weekly press briefing Tuesday morning, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell refused to confirm or deny the report, saying it would be inappropriate for the families to hear first from the press.
Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohammed said the bodies were found on a street near a power plant in the town of Youssifiyah, just south of Baghdad. U.S. Maj. Doug Powell said he could not confirm the report.
Maj. Frank Garcia, public affairs officer of the 2nd Brigade, 101 Airborne Division, said two bodies had been found, but had not yet been identified.
"There were two bodies found, but they are still going through the process of determining whether they are the missing soldiers or not," he said. "There was some human remains that were found. Two bodies."
The White House says the Pentagon does not yet have confirmation, reports CBS News correspondent Peter Maer.
The Defense Department has identified the missing men as Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Oregon.
In other developments:
The story in Iraq was breaking as the president traveled to a summit with European Union leaders. Iraq will be high on the agenda, reports Maer, as the president discusses U.S. plans there while pushing European countries to pay their promised share of economic aid for Iraq.
Colleagues of the U.S. soldier whom Italian authorities are seeking to indict in the death of an Italian intelligence agent at a Baghdad checkpoint last year say he was "devastated" after the fatal shooting. Mario Lozano, a member of the Manhattan-based 69th Infantry Regiment, "was just doing his job. That car was moving too fast. It didn't respond to at least three warnings," Staff Sgt. Edwin Feliciano, a member of Lozano's platoon who was on the airport road that evening, told the New York Daily News in Tuesday's editions.
A suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up in a home for the elderly in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, killing two people and wounding three, police said.The motive of the attack was unclear, police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaida said. The two killed were elderly woman, he said.
Fierce election-year debate on Iraq spilled over into a second week on Capitol Hill with Senate Democrats lining up behind a proposal to start U.S. troop withdrawals this year and Republicans chastising them for espousing a "cut-and-run" strategy. CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss reports Democrats are split, some calling for the pullout of some U.S. troops, others for the removal of all of them. Neither amendment is likely to pass.
The soldiers came under attack Friday at a traffic checkpoint near Youssifiyah. A third soldier, Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was killed in the attack.
"The news is going to be heartbreaking for my family," Ken MacKenzie, Menchaca's uncle, told an American news show.
© 2006 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.