French troops have wrested back control of the key Malian town of Diabaly from Islamist fighters.
After a week of heavy fighting, French and Malian troops were uncertain whether the militants had fled.
However they met no resistance when they entered the town on Monday.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that it was now under the control of French and Malian troops, and that the central town of Douentza had also been retaken.
French warplanes have pounded suspected Islamist positions around both towns since France swept to the aid of the crippled Malian army on January 11, a day after the Islamists made a push towards the capital Bamako.
Diabaly, which lies 250 miles north of Bamako, was seized by the Islamists a week ago in an attack that surprised observers, as the town lies deep within supposedly government-held territory.
Sky's special correspondent Alex Crawford, in Diabaly, said: "The Malian army is going round telling everyone that it has been, in their words, liberated.
"There's evidence of an enormous number of air strikes and very pinpoint precision."
She added that it had taken troops a lot longer than originally expected to retake the town.
Douentza is located in what was Islamist territory east and north of the town of Konna, whose capture earlier this month by extremists sparked the French intervention.
Konna was recaptured by the Malian army last week.