By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN
Follow on Twitter: @CNNEmma
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As militants flee towns they once ruled in northern Mali, stories of their brutality are trickling out. Lindsey Hilsum, a reporter for Britain's Channel 4, spoke to a man who was accused of stealing a motorbike.
[:38] "He used to dig gravel for construction companies he said. Before they cut off his hand."
But amid that horror, there's real progress. French and African forces have driven the militants, some allied with an al Qaeda affiliate, from several major towns.
Dr. Dave Sloggett is a security consultant with IHS Global Insight:
[2:14 ] "Any historian of desert warfare knows the operation thus far in Mali is following a classic pattern."
Dr. Sloggett says the pattern involves quick success from the air and then more of a slow grind on the ground. Experts from IHS recently held a call to share their research on what's happened in Mali thus far and where the situation may go from here.
Listen to the full story to hear why some compare parts of northern Mali to the treacherous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan.