Crowds cheered on the streets of Timbuktu after French-led forces entered the historic city.
The Islamic militants who had been controlling it since last April reportedly put up little resistance.
The French military, which intervened in Mali two weeks ago to push back the rebel insurgency, says that the city’s airport was secured without a shot being fired.
French and Malian forces re-captured Gao, a former rebel stronghold, at the weekend and the recovery of Timbuktu is a key step in the recapturing of the whole country.
Although the rebels have been fleeing Timbuktu, they leave behind a trail of cultural devastation.
There are reports that thousands of priceless, ancient manuscripts have been destroyed during the rebels’ rule.
Founded around 1,000 years ago, Timbuktu is classed as a world heritage site by UNESCO.