French troops on Tuesday night entered the town of Kidal, one of the last holdouts of the al Qaeda–linked militants who had controlled vast parts of the country. By Wednesday morning—just 24 hours after securing Timbuktu—French forces had already taken control of the town’s airport and there was no combat fight. But taking control of Kidal is just the end of the first phase of the French intervention—there are still large numbers of militants who have fled into the desert in the north. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb seized control in the northern region of Mali after a coup, and France led a United Nations–backed intervention as the militants showed signs of moving to the southern region.
PATROL Malian youth celebrate with French flag on Tuesday. (Kambou Sia/AFP/Getty)