French president likely to receive hero's welcome in Mali

Malians display a picture of French President Francois Hollande for sale in Bamako market Photo: Reuters

French President Francois Hollande is likely to be greeted as a hero when he visits Mali tonight, three weeks after he sent forces to the country.

His decision to launch a surprise assault on jihadists who had seized much of the northern desert appears to have been a success.

French military commanders tell me that they have almost reached "total reconquest".

Reports in the French media say that Hollande plans to visit the fabled desert city of Timbuktu, which was under the control of the Islamist rebels until last week.

It would be a symbolic moment in an iconic setting.