WASHINGTON – Terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) narrowly escaped capture by U.S. military forces in Ramadi, Iraq, in a February raid that netted two of his associates, FOX News confirmed Tuesday.
U.S. forces also obtained Zarqawi's laptop computer, which sources told FOX News contained valuable intelligence, including numerous photos — apparently some of which were recent pictures of Zarqawi.
At the time of the Feb. 20 incident, Iraqi officials announced the raid but did not say Zarqawi was the target.
Zarqawi, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, is believed to have orchestrated a relentless wave of car bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and beheadings across the country.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that, "we were close," but declined to elaborate, citing concerns about disclosing operational details.
"I think in general the intelligence is getting better. Having said that, we still don't have Zarqawi," Myers said during a Pentagon news conference, citing tips from Iraqi citizens as effective sources of information.
Questioned about the level of insurgency in Iraq compared to last year, Myers said, "In terms of incidents, it's right about where it was a year ago."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said of Zarqawi during that press conference, that "in terms of lethality, I would rank him quite high," but added, "I think he is on the run. Life for a terrorist, extremist is hard."
Zarqawi was on his way from Fallujah (search) to a meeting in Ramadi when he caught wind of U.S. troops in the area, ABC News reported late Monday, citing an unidentified senior military official. Troops with a covert military unit were reportedly in place to arrest the fugitive.
A military official told The Associated Press that just before the meeting was scheduled, a car was pulled over as it approached a checkpoint. A pickup truck trailing the car then turned and headed in the opposite direction.
Officials believe Zarqawi was in the fleeing truck, but when U.S. teams pulled the vehicle over several miles later, he was not inside, ABC reported. The official said Zarqawi apparently jumped out of the vehicle when it passed beneath an overpass and hid there before escaping.
Inside the truck, the official told ABC, U.S. troops found Zarqawi's computer and about $104,000.
NBC, quoting U.S. military sources, reported Tuesday that among the items seized with the laptop were several small plug-in hard drives.
Qutaybah "filled the role of key lieutenant for the Zarqawi network, arranging safe houses and transportation as well as passing packages and funds to al-Zarqawi," the government said.
It said Qutaybah was a known associate of other Zarqawi lieutenants already held by coalition forces, including Abu Ahmed, an Al Qaeda-linked insurgent leader in the northern city of Mosul, who was detained Dec. 22.
During the same raid, Iraqi forces captured another Zarqawi aide who "occasionally acted as his driver," the government said. He was identified as Ahmad Khalid Marad Ismail al-Rawi, who also helped arrange meetings for Zarqawi. He also is known as Abu Uthman.
A few days afterward, Myers told FOX News Channel, "we've been very close" to capturing Zarqawi.
FOX News' Bret Baier and Nick Simeone and The Associated Press contributed to this report.