U.S. C-17s will airlift 850 peacekeepers from Burundi to the Central African Republic, in coordination with France, according to the Defense Department. (Airman 1st Class Brett Clashman/Air Force)
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Air Force C-17s on Jan. 16 began their second airlift mission in support of operations in the Central African Republic.
The Globemasters will fly 35 missions, ferrying 800 Rwandan soldiers, vehicles and equipment to assist French operations against militants in the Central African Republic, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Jan. 16. The operation will be similar to the December operation when U.S. C-17s airlifted 850 soldiers from Burundi to the Central African Republic.
The mission will last about three weeks, according to the Defense Department.
The first flight on Jan. 16 took about 70 troops, vehicles and 11 pallets from Kigali, Rwanda, to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.
In December, French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to support the French and other African Union partners in fighting militants in the Central African Republic.
The assistance agreement included Rwandan troops, and U.S. officials have been coordinating efforts since then.
Last year, Muslim rebels overthrew the CAR government, which has prompted increased sectarian violence. France began deploying troops to Bangui last month, and they have faced continued fighting. About 4,000 African Union troops are in the country, with that number expected to climb to about 6,000.
Following the initial U.S. airlift support, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. led a delegation to the Central African Republic and the White House announced $101 million in aid to buy nonlethal equipment, such as vehicles and communications equipment.