|Image credit: BBS|
A column of French and Malian troops has entered the key central Malian town of Diabaly, without resistance from militant Islamists, officials say.
About 30 armoured vehicles carrying some 200 French and Malian soldiers moved into the town, said an AFP reporter with the soldiers.
The Islamists fled the town on Friday after it was hit by French airstrikes.
France launched its military action in Mali more than a week ago to end the Islamist control of northern Mali.
France has sent some 2,000 troops to help Malian forces fight the militants, some of whom are linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
It has called on West African countries to speed up the deployment of a regional force of more than 3,000.
An Islamist group in Nigeria, says it carried out an attack last week which killed two Nigerian troops as they prepared to deploy to Mali.
Ansaru said it targeted the troops because the Nigerian military was joining efforts to "demolish the Islamic empire of Mali".
Nigeria has pledged to send 1,200 troops to Mali, with the first 50 deployed on Thursday.
Togolese and Senegalese solders make up the remaining 100 troops already in Bamako, AFP reports.'Total reconquest'
Mali's Islamist fighters seized control of Diabaly, about 400km (250 miles) from the capital, Bamako, soon after France's intervention.
On Monday, French soldiers from the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment as well as parachutists and Malian troops entered the town after reconnaissance flights by Gazelle helicopters, said an AFP reporter with the soldiers.
They had set out at dawn from the nearby government-controlled town of Niono, which French troops entered on Thursday.
Army commanders had earlier expressed fears that Islamists fleeing Diabaly had planted landmines.
On Sunday, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was seeking "total reconquest" of northern Mali.
"We will not leave any pockets" of resistance, he told French television.
The Islamist groups currently control a vast area in the Sahara Desert, larger than France.