Thousands cheer French president's visit to Mali weeks after liberation of Timbuktu

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Associated Press

Posted on February 2, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 2 at 3:00 PM

TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) — Residents of Timbuktu have been cheering French President Francois Hollande (frahn-SWAH' oh-LAWND') as their liberator today.

Hollande is visiting the fabled desert city in northern Mali six days after French forces parachuted in to free it from the radical Islamists who seized control 10 months ago. The French president vowed that his country's forces along with Mali's own army and other African troops will push on to liberate the rest of northern Mali.

Thousands of people stood elbow-to-elbow behind a perimeter line in downtown Timbuktu, hoisting homemade French flags they had prepared for Hollande's arrival. Women wore vibrantly-colored African prints, and bared their midriffs, their arms and their backs, after nearly a year of being forced to wear a colorless, all-enveloping veil. They danced as men played the drums — a loud, raucous celebration that had been forbidden under the Islamists.

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121-r-06-(Sound of French President Francois Hollande (frahn-SWAH' oh-LAWND') greeting Malian officials and members of French forces in Mali, at Timbuktu airport)--Sound of French President Francois Hollande greeting Malian officials and members of the French forces in Mali as he arrives in Timbuktu. (2 Feb 2013)

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APPHOTO XJD119: French President Francois Hollande visits Timbuktu, Mali, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013. Hollande indicated Friday that during his visit to the former French colony, he would discuss the reduction of French troop levels on the ground to make way for an African force, led by Mali. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (2 Feb 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD119 (02/02/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD111: French President Francois Hollande addresses the troops at the airport following his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013. Hollande indicated Friday that during his visit to the former French colony, he would discuss the reduction of French troop levels on the ground to make way for an African force, led by Mali. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (2 Feb 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD111 (02/02/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD115: Well-wishers gather to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (2 Feb 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD115 (02/02/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD118: Elders gather with over two thousand well-wishers to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (2 Feb 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD118 (02/02/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD117: Well-wishers gather to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (2 Feb 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD117 (02/02/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD114: Well-wishers gather to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (2 Feb 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD114 (02/02/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD107: French President Francois Hollande visits Timbuktu, Mali, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (2 Feb 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD107 (02/02/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD122: Malian women pose with a Malian soldier who just arrived in a convoy at the military base in Timbuktu, Mali, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013. French President Francois Hollande visited the fabled city for two hours, twenty days after the start of operation Serval. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (2 Feb 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD122 (02/02/13)>>

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