Algerian officials killed a high-ranking Al Qaeda leader Wednesday in a high-speed chase through the Southern Algerian desert, Al Arabiya reports.
An official from the city of Tamanrasset spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity and claimed that two four-wheel-drive vehicles - one of which was carrying Khalil Ould Addah, also known as Abu Bassen - were hit on their way from Mali to a regional meeting of North African Al Qaeda leaders.
"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.
Addah's precise role in the group is unclear, but he was clearly a prominent figure. Al Qaeda’s branch in the Sahara - known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is led by Yahya Abou el-Hammam, an Algerian, and Ould Addah was likely one of his trusted commanders, according to Jean-Paul Rouillon, an expert on the group.
AQIM branch emerged out of the radical Islamist groups trying to overthrow the Algerian government during the 1990s. Its top officials are believed to be in hiding in the northern Kabyle mountain region, near Algiers.
In January, Al Qaeda-linked groups attacked a southern Algerian natural gas facility at Ain Amenas, taking hundreds hostage before the army attacked, killing nearly all the terrorists. Canadian nationals were reported to be involved, including 24 year-old Aaron Yoon, who was recently extradited by a Mauritanian court.
At least 40 hostages, many of them from Western countries, died in the standoff. After French forces assembled in Mali, the group threatened more attacks on Algerian citizens if Western involvement in the hostage crisis would not stop.