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Search for army terror suspect in national park abandoned; several elements of concern remain

The judicial authorities have put an end to their search of terror suspect and soldier-on-the-run Jürgen Conings in the 'Hoge Kempen' national park. They are now focusing on other options as the manhunt remains fruitless. Meanwhile, fragments of Conings' goodbye letter to his partner have been leaked: "I will become an enemy of the state. I don't care if I die or not." There are also other elements which give rise to major concerns about his plans. 

You can read about the latest developments on this page. Here's a resume of what you need to know: 

Some background

Jürgen Conings was an elite soldier who took part in several foreign missions for the army. He received several military decorations for his excellent shooting skills. The 46-year-old from Limburg didn't come home after his Monday shift and vanished. He took several heavy arms from the army barracks in Leopoldsburg with him and it soon turned out he may be very dangerous and preparing an attack. 

The man has far-right ideas and uttered threats to his employer (the armed forces), the government and virologists. He reportedly also has plans to attack the mosque in Eisden. 

House searches as search in NP is stopped

manhunt started last Tuesday, but four and a half days of searches proved fruitless so far. This is despite the Belgian armed forces and police getting help from foreign units. 

Investigators are keeping all options open, they say, including the possibility that Conings is enjoying support from other people or that he may no longer be alive. 

The federal judicial authorities are not keen to release a lot of information, but house searches were staged at 10 different places last night and this morning. These included Conings' home in Dilsen-Stokkem and places linked to friends with far-right ideas. This afternoon, the news came that the manhunt in the 'Hoge Kempen'  national park has been stopped for the time being. All the efforts have proved fruitless so far. 

Terror suspect

The judicial authorities are treating Jürgen Conings as a terror suspect now as he is facing charges of illegal possession of arms and attempted murder - he apparently spent a couple of hours in the area of Marc Van Ranst's home, Belgium's renowned virologist. 

Fragments from the goodbye letter

Today, extracts of one of his goodbye letters to his partner were released by Het Nieuwsblad. "I want you to know that I did everything I could to prevent this from happening, but I didn't succeed. I cannot go on like this, with this future", he is quoted as saying. 

Conings targets politicians and virologists: "I can't live with the lies of people who - at the same time - have to decide about how we have to live our lives. The so-called political elite, joined by the virologists now, is deciding how you and I have to live. They trigger hate and frustration, worse than it was before."   

Ready for action, prepared to die 'his way'

Conings writes he will take action: "I know I will suddenly be an enemy of the state. They will look for me and find me after a while. I am ready for that. Slowly but surely, things have fallen into place and I have started the preparations. (...) It doesn't matter whether I die or not. But if I do, I will die my way, I will live my last days the way I want it." 

These last sentences are one of the elements that urged investigators to be very cautious and to consider him as extremely dangerous. 

Things have fallen into place and I have started my preparations

Extra element of concern

Conings' military decorations have been found at the family grave in Peer where his parents are resting. His father passed way in 1997, his mother in 2003. The decorations were probably laid there on Tuesday, when he was already on the run. Experts label this as an element triggering extra concerns, as it indicates you no longer believe in things.   

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