The remains of an armored vehicle used by al Qaeda-affiliated militants that was hit by French airstrikes are pictured in Konna, Mali, January 27, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Joe Penney)
The legendary city of Timbuktu is now at the center of the conflict in Mali.
French and Malian government forces entered the ancient city on Monday.
Islamist rebels are reported to be dispersing and avoiding direct conflict.
Reports say Timbuktu's ancient library was set on fire by rebels, but as of 2 p.m. ET Monday, there's no independent confirmation of this.
What is known for sure is that some women in liberated areas are throwing off the hijab.
Peter Tinti is a freelance reporter In Mali.
He's been in touch with people in the newly liberated city of Gao.
"People there are ecstatic," says Tinti. "I could hear drums playing in the background. People out in the streets. People using rhetoric like 'we're finally free', and 'finally I can breathe.'"