French and Chadian troops have arrived at the town of Aguelhok, 160km north of Kidal, near Mali's border with Algeria.
'French and Chadian soldiers have left Kidal and are currently patrolling in Aguelhok,' Malian Captain Aliou Toure told AFP on Thursday.
An official with the administration in Kidal confirmed the report.
'The French and Chadian soldiers left in strength by road. They arrived at Aguelhok and are then heading for Tessalit,' said the official.
Both towns have been targeted with repeated French air strikes over the last few days aimed at knocking out the Islamist bases, French military spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard said.
The two northern towns lie in the Adrar des Ifoghas massif, in the far northeast, a craggy mountain landscape honeycombed with caves, where the insurgents are believed to have fled with seven French hostages.