A Malian army commander says government officials have returned to the northern city of Kidal 16 months after they were chased out by rebels.

Col. Mamary Camara, the military chief in Kidal, said regional governor Col. Adama Kamissoko arrived by plane around midday Thursday accompanied by Malian and United Nations officials.

Like the rest of northern Mali, Kidal fell to Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked fighters following a military coup in March 2012. France launched a military intervention in January, driving the rebels out of the other major towns.

But Tuareg rebels re-entered Kidal in February and March of this year, and the city remained under rebel control until Mali's military returned last week.

A presidential election in Mali is scheduled for July 28.