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“We are free today; we are free,” said Fatima Toure, a Gao resident.

Back from exile, the mayor and governor of Gao met with community elders to chart the best measures for returning life to normal.

The elders presented two cows to the authorities and a representative of the French army in gratitude for their work in liberating Gao.

While most crowds in the freed cities have been joyful, months of resentment toward the Islamists bubbled into violence in Gao.

Video footage filmed by an amateur cameraman and obtained by The Associated Press shows a mob attacking the symbol of the extremists’ rule, the Islamic police headquarters.

Some celebrated, cheering, “I am Malian,” while others armed with sticks and machetes attack suspected members of the Islamist regime. The graphic images shot Saturday show the mob as they mutilate the corpses of two young suspected jihadists lying dead in the street.

There are 3,500 French troops involved in the operation and 2,900 Africans, according to the latest figures from the French Defense Ministry.

Mali’s military was severely affected by a military coup last year coup and has a reputation for disorganization and bad discipline. Malian soldiers have been accused of fatally shooting civilians suspected of links to the Islamists. The military has promised to investigate the allegations.

• Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg; Baba Ahmed in Segou, Mali; Lori Hinnant in Paris; and Andrew Drake and Jerome Delay in Gao, Mali, contributed to this article.