Central Africa airlifts to start Saturday: Agency

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - The international migration agency announced it will start airlifting thousands of people out of strife-torn Central African Republic on Saturday following appeals from neighboring countries.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said at least 33,000 people from other African nations need "urgent" help in the Central African Republic.

An IOM statement said the first three flights will take about 800 Chadians home from Bangui.

Chadians have been the target of attacks in the country and the group is among about 2,500 who fled to a transit camp next to Bangui airport, the statement said.

The IOM said it has received requests from Chad, Niger, Mali, Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo to get thousands of their stranded nationals away from the battles between rival Christian and Muslim militias.

More than 60,000 Africans have asked for assistance from their embassies in Bangui.

"Nearly 27,000 have already been evacuated by their governments, leaving at least 33,000 in urgent need of help," the IOM said.

The agency appealed for $17.5 million in aid to evacuate up to 10,000 Africans from Central African Republic and help 50,000 others resettle in their home countries.