* 1st time group evacuates foreigners from Nigeria's Abuja
* Total also moved staff from Saharan desert after attack
PARIS Jan 25 French oil major Total
has moved its staff from the Nigerian capital Abuja following
the kidnapping of a French national last month, Chief Executive
Christophe de Margerie said on Friday.
This is the first time in recent history that a company has
said it has evacuated foreigners from Nigeria's capital due to
security concerns. Western diplomatic sources told Reuters
earlier this week that embassies were not planning to remove
families of their staff from Abuja.
"What we do first is to limit the number of expatriates, not
because they have more rights to be protected than the others,
but because they are a more interesting target, if I may say,"
de Margerie told France 24 television.
He did not elaborate on the number of staff moved.
"In Nigeria, we have three installations ... We moved our
people from Abuja, which is the city that is most at risk, to
Lagos and Port-Harcourt, and if necessary, we move them back to
Paris," he told the TV channel on the sidelines of the World
Economic Forum in Davos.
Nigerian Islamist group Ansaru kidnapped a French national
last month in the remote northern town of Rimi, close to the
The group threatened to continue to target the French
because of the country's support of military action in Mali and
its decision to ban the full face veil.
Ansaru claimed an attack on a military convoy taking troops
from Nigeria to Mali last week in Kogi state, south of the
The group's full name is Jama'atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi
Biladis Sudan, which roughly translates as "Vanguards for the
Protection of Muslims in Black Africa".
The group, thought to be a breakaway from better known
Islamist sect Boko Haram, has risen to greater prominence in
It claimed responsibility for a dawn raid on a major police
station in the Nigerian capital in November, where it said
hundreds of prisoners were released.
Britain last year put Ansaru on its official "terrorist
group" list, saying it was aligned with al Qaeda and was behind
the kidnap of a British and an Italian killed earlier this year
during a failed rescue attempt.
Ansaru is thought to have loose ties to Boko Haram, which
killed hundreds last year in an insurgency focused mostly on
Nigerian security forces, religious targets and politicians,
rather than foreigners.
De Margerie said Total had also moved some of its personnel
out of Algeria.
Last week's siege at an Algerian gas plant by Islamist
militants, which ended with heavy loss of life among foreign
hostages, also prompted the French oil major to take extra
measures to protect its staff in the northern African country.
"In Algeria, those who were in the desert, we brought them
back to Algiers, and those who had no need to stay in Algiers,
(they were) repatriated to France," he said.
"But at the same time, we carry on, we must not stop
(production), we're continuing at the same pace, but with a
lower headcount," he added.
(Reporting by Michel Rose and Joe Brock; Editing by Muriel
Boselli and Mark Potter)