DOHA, Qatar -- Defence 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 defence minister.

Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog says Hagel directed the U.S. Africa Command to begin transporting forces in co-ordination with France because the U.S. believes immediate action is needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

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.