The hostage situation at a hotel in the Malian capital Bamako comes after months of sporadic violence.
Malian troops backed by French forces on Sunday clashed with Islamist fighters in Timbuktu, leaving two jihadists dead and four Malian soldiers hurt.
Peacekeepers have taken over as France tries to prevent revenge killings in Mali.
After having killed "several hundred" militants in fighting to reclaim north Mali, France says it will begin withdrawing its troops in the country.
In August 2012, a handful of heroes conspired to save Timbuktu's prized manuscripts. The ingenious plan involved empty rice sacks, a boat and Bamako.
France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, says France wants African forces to assume security responsibility for the city of Timbuktu "very fast".
The most difficult part of the conflict is yet to come for newly liberated Timbuktu: reconciliation and healing.
French troops have entered Kidal, the last major town in their lightning drive to drive out rebels from northern Mali, military officials have said.
French and Malian troops have sealed off Timbuktu after fleeing rebels torched buildings including a South African-funded prized manuscript library.
Members of Timbuktu's Arab community have set up an armed brigade to prevent further destruction of the tombs of ancient Muslim saints by Islamists.
The destruction of ancient tombs and treasures is a human tragedy as well as a crime against culture, writes Lloyd Gedye.
Religious leaders have headed up a protest by over a 1 000 people in Mali's capital after the destruction of historic religious sites at Timbuktu.
Rebels in Mali have smashed seven tombs of ancient Muslim saints in Timbuktu as the ICC warned their campaign of destruction was a war crime.
The search for a South African man kidnapped in Timbuktu, who's name the family does not want to release, is continuing.
An Eastern Cape minister has offered to pay for ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema to fly to Timbuktu until after the April elections.
SA and Mali opened a high-tech library in the Malian desert town of Timbuktu on Saturday, boosting efforts to preserve ancient manuscripts.
The desert city of Timbuktu, where French President Jacques Chirac arrives on Friday during a visit to West Africa, has been a synonym for romance and exoticism for generations. The 17th-century chronicler and historian Abderahman Saadi called the oasis on the edge of the Sahara desert "exquisite, pure, delicious, illustrious, a blessed city, fertile and lovely".
Researchers in Timbuktu are fighting to preserve tens of thousands of ancient texts which they say prove Africa had a written history at least as old as the European Renaissance. Private and public libraries in the fabled Saharan town in Mali have already collected 150 000 brittle manuscripts, some of them from the 13th century.