The house, discovered June 9 near Samarra — more than 100 miles from the area where they disappeared — was otherwise empty, the statement said. American soldiers approaching the building came under fire from a nearby stand of trees, and two were wounded before air support could arrive.
Spc. Alex R. Jimenez and Pvt. Byron Fouty were snatched in a raid on their 10th Mountain Division unit on May 12 near Youssifiyah. The body of a third soldier taken in the raid, Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., was found floating in the Euphrates River. Four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator were killed in the May 12 ambush.
The Islamic State of Iraq, a front group for al Qaeda, claimed in a video posted on the Internet this month that all three missing soldiers were killed and buried. The militants showed images of the military IDs of Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., but offered no proof that they were dead.
"Bad news is good news," said Wendy Luzon, a friend of the Jimenez family. "It's better than not getting any news for weeks. Getting this news is something good. We keep hoping that he's alive. We have nothing that tells us differently."
In Other Developments
Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, said the U.S. military has gone on the offensive in several al Qaeda strongholds around Baghdad that the group is using as bases for car bomb operations.
"There's never been a military commander in history who wouldn't like to have more of something or other — that characterizes all of us here," he told reporters traveling with Gates. "The fact is frankly that we have all that our country is going to provide us in terms of combat forces. That is really it right now."
Underscoring the challenges ahead, the arrival of Gates on Friday night brought him to a city all but shut down by a security lockdown imposed after the bombing of an important shrine north of the city. The explosion at the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra destroyed the mosque's minarets and has prompted at least two retaliatory attacks — both in southern Iraq.
On Saturday, bombers loaded into pickup trucks pulled up to the al-Ashrah al-Mubashra mosque in Basra's al-Hakimiya district at dawn, residents in nearby houses said. Minutes after they left, a huge explosion tore through the building, leveling it.
As they were leaving, the insurgents wrote graffiti on the mosque complex's outer wall with the names of revered Shiite saints, witnesses said. They also hoisted a green Shiite flag over a crumbling part of the mosque complex, they said.
Iraqi police did not immediately respond to the bombing, witnesses said, raising fears that the city's Shiite-dominated security forces were unwilling to stop sectarian attacks on Sunni landmarks. No injuries were reported in the attack in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, which is about 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.
On Friday, police said bombers posing as television cameramen destroyed another important Sunni mosque near Basra, the Talha Bin al-Zubair shrine. Afterward, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an indefinite curfew in Basra, which remained in effect Saturday.
In February 2006, Sunni militants blew up the Askariya shrine's glistening golden dome, in an attack whose aftermath has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis.