Francois Hollande has been hailed as a hero during his one-day visit to Mali.
The French president pledged his sustained support for the west African country’s efforts to expel Islamist militants.
Shortly after touching down, Hollande set about meeting some of the French forces engaged in the fight.
Alongside Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, he praised French and Malian soliders but warned the “combat is not over.”
In Timbuktu, Hollande was mobbed by people eager to thank him personally for giving France’s support.
“We are proud. God thank France. France has saved the all word, not only Mali. François Hollande did well because thanks to him, we are free again,” said one man among the thousands who turned out.
Timbuktu residents rejoiced at being freed from the severe version of Islamic law imposed by the rebels.
Before leaving, Hollande visited the Djingarei-ber or Grand Mosque and the Ahmed Baba Institute, a library of ancient manuscripts that was ransacked by the rebels.