Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. commander in charge of the war in Iraq, announced Sunday six American soldiers had been found alive by Marines.
Officials at U.S. Central Command told Fox News that it was not yet known if the soldiers were formally listed as missing in action or as prisoners of war.
At least six soldiers were found outside Baghdad, in the town of Samarra, the officials said. Meanwhile, the Pentagon would not offer an official number of soldiers rescued.
Central Command told Fox News Sunday morning that seven, not six, soldiers had been found alive.
Gen. Franks told reporters more information on the rescued soldiers would come within "12 hours" of his initial Sunday morning announcement.
In Baghdad, cheering of U.S. troops in the heart of the city as recently as a day ago gave way to protests of U.S. occupation by frustrated Iraqis.
Meanwhile, Franks annonced that a Marine task force had entered Tikrit to sweep away any remaining Iraqi resistance ahead of an anticipated "last stand" in Saddam Hussein's hometown.
U.S. officials in the past few days had cited the fall of Baghdad, desertions and damage from sustained airstrikes when playing down the prospect of a major battle in the northern city. Nonetheless, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force's Task Force Tripoli, which included several regimental combat teams and light-armor reconnaissance battalions, was sent from Baghdad to Tikrit.
With combat in most of Iraq over or winding down, the U.S. military was shifting its focus to stabilizing the country. One project is to establish joint patrols by U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police, aimed at curbing the rampant looting that has wracked Baghdad, Mosul and other cities.
A line of Iraqis showed up at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel Sunday in response to calls from U.S. Marines over loudspeakers for doctors, civil servants and others willing to volunteer to help rebuild Iraq.
Across the street, with two lines of U.S. troops protecting the international media staying in the Palestine, a group of Iraqis vented their frustrations with the lawlessness of recent days, and also protested a looming health disaster due to a continued lack of electricity, running water and sanitation services.
Looting spread from the city's center to a vast stretch of army barracks and warehouses on the western outskirts. Looters using trucks and horse-drawn carts stole toilets, bathtubs, sinks and construction materials from one of the largest warehouses. Nearer the city center, an institute of military studies was looted and gutted by fire.
Some buses were running. Other buses — double-decker ones — have been commandeered by looters to ferry their plunder back home.
But in a sign that life in the heart of Baghdad may be returning to normal, traffic was the heaviest seen since the start of the war.
In an upscale residential neighborhood of Baghdad, U.S. Marines and special forces found two short-range Frog-7 missiles — each capable of carrying 25 gallons of chemical agents. One, on its mobile transporter/launcher, was found in nursery among potted plants and palm trees; the second was found 500 yards away in a trailer in front of a University of Baghdad administrative building.
In Mosul, the biggest city in the north, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was shot and wounded Sunday while on a patrol aimed at improving security.
Maj. Fred Dummar said the soldier was in a Land Rover, driving past a waving crowd, when a bullet smashed through the rear window and struck his leg. The wound was not believed to be life-threatening, but it was expected the soldier would be evacuated to Germany for further treatment.
Even as the casualty list grew, there were signs the war's end was near.
Vice Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of naval forces in the war, said two or three of the five U.S. aircraft carriers launching planes on missions over Iraq may head home soon. Each carrier has about 80 planes aboard, including about 50 strike aircraft.
He said the USS Kitty Hawk, which has operated in the Persian Gulf since February, probably would be the first to leave. The USS Constellation, also in the Gulf, probably would go next, he said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an interview Sunday with the British Broadcasting Corp., tried to ease doubts about the U.S. role in Iraq's postwar reconstruction.
"The United States has not anointed anyone to be the future leader of Iraq or to be the leader of the interim Iraqi authority," Powell said.
"We believe very strongly that the Iraqi people and the representatives of the Iraqi people should do that. We are not in the business of installing the next president of Iraq."
One of the remaining missions for U.S. forces is to track down the 12 American soldiers still listed as missing or captured. With the Iraqi government gone and its the army dispersed, finding Iraqis who know where the POWs are has proved difficult so far.
U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks at U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, expressed hope that more people would be willing to share secrets about potential POW sightings now that Saddam's regime has collapsed.
Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was rescued April 1 from a hospital in southern Iraq after an Iraqi civilian tipped soldiers off, became the first POW to return home Saturday. The United States lists five other soldiers as missing and seven as prisoners of war.
After a flight from a military base in Germany, Lynch — who has extensive injuries — was taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington. Maj. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, commander of the facility, described her condition as satisfactory.
Fox News' Jennifer Eccleston and the Associated Press contributed to this report.