French-led troops in Mali have taken control of the airport in the northern town and Islamist stronghold of Gao, the French defence ministry has said.
Both Gao’s airport and the strategic Wabary bridge have been secured, though fighting continues in the town.
Gao, along with Kidal and Timbuktu, were seized by an alliance of Tuareg rebels and Islamists last April.
France has already deployed 2,500 soldiers on the ground in Mali as well as launching air strikes.
Islamists seized a vast area of northern Mali last year and have imposed strict Sharia, or Islamic law, on its inhabitants. France intervened militarily on 11 January to stop them advancing further south.