It was payback time Tuesday in the newly liberated town of Gao in Mali, with residents hunting down and beating suspected Islamist extremists who had not fled with their brothers-in-arms as Malian and French military forces closed in and retook the town.

Malian troops bundled the men into an army truck, their hands bound behind their backs. For the better part of a year, the al-Qaida-linked extremists had banned music, insisted women cover themselves and began carrying out public executions and amputations in the towns of northern Mali that they controlled.

Now the Islamists' control of the cities has slipped, with the provincial capitals of Gao and Timbuktu coming back under government authority in quick succession with the arrival of French and Malian troops. They also may have lost control of a third key city, Kidal.