Washington, DC, United States (4E) – U.S. Air Force planes will airlift hundreds of African and French peacekeeping troops to the Central African Republic (CAR), the Pentagon announced on Monday.
C-17s under the U.S. Africa Command will carry the first batch of peacekeepers, 850 Burundian soldiers, to Bangui, where Muslim militias and Christian vigilantes are fighting for control of the leaderless country. The three-hour airlift is expected to begin within the next 24 hours, according to Pentagon spokesman Maj. Rob Firman.
The airlift support was directed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in response to the request of French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian on Sunday for U.S. help in quickly deploying African Union and French troops to the troubled former French colony to stop the sectarian violence that has displaced 400,000 civilians or 10 percent of the CAR population.
People were forced to flee homes and hidein the bush without food or drinking water, the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said.
Fighting in recent days also claimed hundreds of lives.
France is also sending 1,600 troops to help end the fighting between Christian vigilantes and Seleka rebels, who seized power in April after deposing President Francois Bozize. Bozize fled the country after the coup.
The African Union is increasing its troops in CAR to 6,000.
Peacekeeping troops will disarm CAR fighters to restore security and prepare the country for elections.