“I want to thank the French people,” said Mamadou Traoré, a Diabaly resident. He said French airstrikes had chased away the militants without harming any civilians, a claim echoed by other residents.

“None of us were touched,” Mr. Traoré said. “It was incredible.”…

The fighters had little time to impose the version of Shariah law that has made them infamous in the north, where they have carried out public whippings and amputations and stoned a couple to death. But their brief reign over Diabaly was a small taste of the harsh policies they have enacted elsewhere.

“I had to cover my head at all times,” Djenaba Cissé said. “When I walked with my brother to the fields, they would bother us,” she continued. “They would ask us questions to verify that we were siblings.”