French air strikes destroyed the home of the leader of an Al-Qaeda-linked group in northern Mali as French-led forces advanced Sunday on the Islamist stronghold of Timbuktu.

The overnight strikes in Kidal came 24 hours after French-led troops seized Gao, the most populated town in Mali's Islamist-controlled arid north, which is roughly the size of Texas. Gao is home to about 60,000 people.

"There were air raids on Islamist bases in Kidal," 1,500 kilometres (940 miles) north of the capital Bamako, a Malian security source said, adding that the home of Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) chief Iyad Ag Ghaly was destroyed.