Dakar - Mali and Senegal have repatriated hundreds of their nationals fleeing sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, officials in Bamako and Dakar told AFP on Monday.
In the Malian capital Bamako the minister in charge of expatriate Malians, Abdramane Sylla, and two other officials welcomed a group of nearly 270 people who returned in a plane chartered by their government.
Mali's ambassador to Gabon, Diadie Yacouba Dagnoko, who travelled with the evacuees from Bangui, put their exact number at 267.
Another flight is to repatriate the same number of Malians on Tuesday, Sylla said, adding that more flights could be added as about 3 000 Malians were living in the Central African Republic (CAR). But so far only over 500 had signalled they wanted to return to Mali, he added.
Most of those repatriated were women and children, many born in the troubled country to Malian-origin parents who had been living there for a long time.
Senegal said it had repatriated nearly 600 of its nationals in less than a week, according to the authorities in Dakar.
Senegal's APS news agency reported that Dakar also evacuated Guinean, Malian and Gambian nationals trapped by the conflict in the CAR, but did not give their number.
Nigeria said Sunday it was repatriating over 1 600 citizens who had sought refuge in its embassy in Bangui.
The resource-rich but impoverished Central African Republic has been wracked by ever-escalating violence since a March coup by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels installed Michel Djotodia as the country's first Muslim president.
Although Djotodia disbanded the rebels, some of them went rogue, leading to months of killing, rape and pillaging and prompting Christians to form vigilante groups in response.
French and African Union troops have been struggling to restore order in the nation since receiving a UN mandate last month.
More than 1 000 people have been killed in the past month alone, while nearly a million have been displaced since the coup.