Nigerian officials say they have rescued hundreds of citizens from the near-anarchy gripping the Central African Republic.

The Defense Ministry says a military transport plane and chartered aircraft have carried home 831 of 1,620 Nigerians who had sought refuge at their country's embassy in Bangui, the capital, in an ongoing operation that began Friday. The National Emergency Management agency says 1,277 have been returned. Both statements came late Sunday.

The Central African Republic has been in chaos since an attack in early December by a Christian militia aiming to overthrow Muslim coup leader Michel Djotodia, unleashing sectarian violence. French troops have deployed to bolster African peacekeepers.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says 935,000 people have been forced from their homes.