Algerian army helicopters killed a top al-Qaida leader and four associates as they sped through the southern Algerian desert, a local official said Thursday.

The two four-wheel-drive vehicles were hit as they were carrying Khalil Ould Addah, known as Abu Bassen, the number three leader in the terror network’s North African branch, said the official from the southern regional capital of Tamanrasset.

“The trail of the two all-terrain vehicles was being followed closely by the army that wanted to take them alive but at the last minute the decision was made to use helicopters to bomb their vehicles,” he told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. […]