PARIS Jan 28 France has asked its citizens to
leave northern Nigeria and areas around the capital Abuja after
threats due to its military intervention in Mali, a diplomatic
source said on Monday.
Islamist militants have vowed to target French interests
following its two-week-old military offensive in Mali against
militants allied to al Qaeda.
The diplomatic source said the threat of kidnappings coupled
with Nigeria's support for France's action in Mali had raised
the risks for French nationals.
France has about 2,000 citizens living in Nigeria, of which
335 live in or around Abuja.
French oil major Total has moved its staff from
Abuja following the kidnapping of a French national in a remote
northern town close to the Niger border last month, Chief
Executive Christophe de Margerie said on Friday.
It was the first time in recent history that a company has
said it had evacuated foreigners from Nigeria's capital due to
security concerns. The diplomatic source said Total had asked 40
employees to leave Abuja.
Nigerian Islamist group Ansaru said it kidnapped the French
national and threatened to continue to target the French because
of the country's military action in Mali and its ban on the
Islamic veil. Ansaru also claimed responsibility for an attack
on a military convoy taking troops from Nigeria to Mali last
week in Kogi state, south of the capital Abuja.
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".
Ansaru is thought to have loose ties to Islamist sect Boko
Haram, which killed hundreds last year in an insurgency focused
mostly on Nigerian security forces, religious targets and
politicians, rather than foreigners.
Explaining the French advice to leave northern Nigeria, the
diplomatic source said: "It's down to a culmination of factors
that this decision was taken: the threat of kidnappings on
certain people, the French hostages, the commitment of Nigeria
on Mali as well as the threats from Boko Haram."