Hagel orders airlift for Central African Republic

French troops patrol past two Seleka, the alliance of mostly Muslim rebel groups, vehicles set on fire by Christian mobs in Bangui, Central African Republic, Monday Dec. 9, 2013. Both Christian and Muslim mobs went on lynching sprees as French Forces deploy in the capital. At least one Seleka suspect was stoned to death by the crowds. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

DOHA, Qatar -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is ordering the U.S. military to transport troops from Burundi into the Central African Republic to help quell the latest upsurge in violence there.

He approved the order at the request of the French defense minister.

Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog says Hagel directed the U.S. Africa Command to begin transporting forces in coordination with France because the U.S. believes immediate action is needed to "avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the Central African Republic, and because of our interest in peace and security in the region."

There are more than 1,000 French troops in the Central African Republic, where Christian armed fighters launched an attack on the capital last week.

The fighters oppose the Muslim ex-rebels now in charge of the former French colony.