Official: Algerian forces kill senior al-Qaida leader and 4 others in desert air strike.

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An Algerian official says army helicopters have killed a top al-Qaida leader and four associates as they were speeding through the desert in the south of the country.

The official in the southern regional capital of Tamanrasset said Thursday the two four-wheel-drive vehicles contained five men, including Khalil Ould Addah also known as Abu Bassen, the number three of al-Qaida's North Africa branch.

The Arabic language daily El Khabar reported that the men were coming from Mali on Wednesday to meet with top al-Qaida leaders based in northern Algeria.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the army had wanted to take them men alive, but in the end the use of attack helicopters was deemed necessary.