Norway air ambulances await Algiers green light

Norway, which has eight nationals unaccounted for in the hostage crisis at a remote Algerian gas plant, said on Friday it was ready to send two air ambulances to the site but was awaiting the green light from Algiers.

A Boeing 737 that belongs to the SAS airline and which has been converted into a medical plane left Norway on Thursday but had been delayed in Sicily without permission to land near the In Amenas gas plant. It was finally expected to reach Algiers on Friday afternoon.

"For the moment, we haven't been authorized to land at In Amenas," foreign ministry spokesman Frode Andersen told AFP as the plane was still on its way to the Algerian capital.

On Friday, Oslo also dispatched another air ambulance, a C-130 Hercules military aircraft, to Sicily.

"The situation (at In Amenas) is so confusing that we would rather have planes in the region that can be quickly mobilised," said Bent-Ivan Myhre, a military spokesman.

The aircraft may be sent to the "most pertinent" location once it has received authorization to land, the foreign ministry said.

Norwegian authorities stressed that sending the planes was only a precautionary measure, and not in any way an indication of the fate of the eight Norwegians "affected" by the hostage-taking.

Asked about the nature of Norway's contacts with Algeria, Andersen said the two countries were in "close contact" but refused to provide any details.

The eight Norwegians are employees of the oil group Statoil, which jointly operates the gas field with BP and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach. 

Islamists were still holding an undetermined number of foreign hostages at the isolated complex on Friday as criticism mounted of Algiers' decision to launch a deadly rescue bid at the site.

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Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”.