Celebrations in Gao as French and Malaian forces liberate the town from Islamist fighters.
For two men -- accused of homosexuality -- it was a stay of execution.
(SOUNDBITE)(Songhay) BADOU AHMED, SAYING:
"During the trial, there were no defense witnesses, it was controlled. They told us they were going to cut our throats for being homosexual. Even though another man said that without witness testimony, we should not be
Another man shows the room where he awaited his death sentence.
. (SOUNDBITE)(Songhay) ALITIIN AG OUSSMAN, SAYING:
"I was in prison and I was waiting to be executed the next day when I heard bombing throughout the night. In the morning a crowd arrived, breaking my cell door to get me out, they told me they that I was free, the city is liberated from Islamists."
France deployed 3,500 ground troops in a campaign launched last month to help clear northern Mali of Islamist rule. For at least two men -- it was a campaign that saved their lives.