U.S. forces "just missed" capturing terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a gunfight over the weekend in the northern city of Mosul, U.S. military sources told.
The military had intelligence that indicated al-Zarqawi was meeting with high-level Iraq in al-Qaida lieutenants, a Pentagon source confirmed.
As soldiers closed in on the site, there was an exchange of small arms fire, then it appears the three al-Qaida suspects blew themselves up to avoid capture.
The military is conducting DNA tests on flesh and blood recovered from the scene, but a Pentagon official said indications are that al-Zarqawi is not among those killed.
"The information was solid. We just missed him," said one Pentagon source.
Separately, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Sunday that reports of al-Zarqawi's death were "highly unlikely and not credible."
"We have no indication that al-Zarqawi was killed in this fight and we continue operations to search for him," added Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman.
The elusive al-Zarqawi has narrowly escaped capture in the past, according to NBC.
The strike was defensive in nature and came in response to three attacks on the US military in February