On Jan. 28, after two weeks of beating back Islamists with little resistance, French-led forces regained control over the town of Timbuktu. One thousand French soldiers along with 200 Malian troops seized the airport and surrounded the town, an ancient cultural hub and major prize in the fight for the country. "The town has been effectively taken without any clashes," Col. Thierry Burkhard told reporters at a briefing in Paris.
After living for almost 10 months under harsh occupation, residents gave French and Malian troops a hero's welcome. But the looting and destruction in the wake of the offensive cast a shadow over the celebrations. In addition, operation leaders have warned that while the town may have been taken easily, Timbuktu's militants may have slipped into hiding in preparation for guerrilla-style warfare. Here, Foreign Policy has collected some of the best images from the mission to take back Timbuktu.
Above, residents of Timbuktu pose with French forces.