Massive manhunt in natural park: man on the run has a past record in the army that triggers (major) concerns

Hundreds of police officers and members of the armed forces are being deployed again today to find Jürgen Conings, a member of the Belgian armed forces who has extremist ideas. The search continues today as yesterday's massve hunt proved fruitless. The man disappeared on Monday. He is armed and is thought to be dangerous after uttering threats in the past. Meanwhile, more details about the 46-year-old emerge. 

Detectives assume he is hiding in the 'Hoge Kempen', one of Belgium's largest natural areas situated in Limburg province. His car was discovered nearby; several heavy arms were found in the abandoned vehicle including a rocket launcher. While the man left some of the weapons behind, he is still armed and possibly dangerous.  

Despite the massive search operation yesterday afternoon, in the evening and during the night, Jürgen Conings could not be found yet. As an experienced member of the military, he has inside information about how a search operation works - and thus about how to hide. 

A thorough sweeping of the natural park is being staged today. It's a big task: the park covers about 120,000 hectares. But it's clear that the authorities are bending over backwards to catch the man as soon as possible. 

Today's operation is being labelled as 'unprecedented' by some as it involves 250 members of the police force and 150 of the army. Belgium asked the help of Dutch and German security forces for the operation. 

Goodbye letters

Conings reportedly wrote three goodbye letters in which he uses a threatening language towards the government and virologists. He targeted the renowned Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst among others. 

In one of the letters, he also turns against his own employer, the army. "You trained me to become who I am now, I will use this against you", he is quoted as saying.

Sanction for extremist sympathies

Conings received a disciplinary sanction in the army because of possible links with right extremists such as members of the organisation Knights of Flanders. 

Conings lost a high position in the Peutie army hub and was transferred to the army barracks in Leopoldsburg, where he still got access to the ammunition and weapons depot. A blunder, experts say. "It's like giving someone with an alcohol problem a new function: a barman in the local canteen", an anonymous source in the army is quoted as saying. 

To make matters worse, the CCTV system that checks the entrance to the depot, was apparently not working properly, allowing Conings to do as he wanted. PM Alexander De Croo told Parliament that "checks on this type of people should become a lot more stringent". 

Top stories