Jan. 30 - The residents of Douentza, a town recaptured by French-backed Malian troops last week, are relieved Islamists have been flushed out, but fear they could return. Sarah Charlton reports.
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The ruins of this hotel are all that remains of a base for Islamist rebels in the Malian town of Douentza.
A French airstrike hit the building earlier this month, driving the fighters out of the town.
Overwhelming firepower from the air has allowed French and Malian troops to quickly advance.
Militants who controlled areas for 10 months have now vanished from towns and villages.
Residents here say terror reigned while rebels held the town, as a strict Islamic law was enforced.
SOUNDBITE: DOUENTZA RESIDENT, BOULKER OULD BILAL, SAYING (French):
"The first time those people came, everyone was hiding, everyone was afraid. Today, God gave us this moment, we are free, we can smoke, we can walk the way we like, we don't look behind us to check if someone is following us to beat us or to kill us or something like that."
The hasty retreat raises fears of a guerrilla war as militants regroup.
Some here are worried that rebels could return as government forces move on.
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