Natural Park Belgium closed on search for armed military

In Belgium, the National Park Hoge Kempen is closed in the search for the fugitive professional military Jurgen Conings. โ€œThere are strong indications that the man may be in that park,โ€ says the Belgian federal prosecutors office to the Flemish broadcaster VRT.

Police started a search yesterday for 46-year-old Conings, after his wife reported that he had not come home. Also found farewell letters. In it, according to the newspaper De Standaard, the militaire wrote that he โ€œcould no longer live in a society where the politicians and virologists took everything away from usโ€. He wrote that he would โ€œgo into the resistance and not surrender without a blow.โ€

Near the nature reserve, not far from the Dutch border, the mans car was found yesterday. There were four rocket launchers, including ammunition.

According to the federal prosecutors office, Conings probably still has weapons in his possession. Belgian media write that the military is carrying a P90 machine gun, a smaller gun and a bulletproof vest. The military would not have had another car, and the authorities would assume that he was moving on foot.

The area around the found car was dropped off by the police:

The Belgian professional military fugitive stood as a โ€œpotentially violent extremistโ€ on the radar of terror fighters, including the Belgian OCAD. Yet Coning was able to take heavy weapons from a barracks, supposedly for a shooting practice. In Belgium, the question is raised how this man could get weapons so easily.

โ€œ If you are a shooting instructor, it is natural that you come into contact with weapons,โ€ says correspondent Sander van Hoorn. โ€œSo he would have picked them up from the warehouse, saying he wanted to do a shooting practice.โ€

The police have put an APB out:

The military officer worked as an instructor in the barracks of Leopoldsburg, about fifteen kilometres from the border with the Netherlands. Conings had already been temporarily inactive because of threats he made to virologists and politicians via social media. โ€œBut they were never real acts,โ€ says Van Hoorn. โ€œProbably those threats werent serious enough to fire him.โ€

Conings directed his threats mainly against the well-known Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst. As a precaution, the Belgian authorities have put him and his family in a shelter. โ€œVan Ranst is fairly pronounced,โ€ says Van Hoorn. โ€œHe is not only a virologist, but also associates himself with the Belgian PVDA, a left-wing party related to the Dutch SP.โ€

โ€œ So it is obvious to be the extreme right to focus your arrows on someone who is emphatically on the left in the political debate. More than Steven Van Gucht, the Belgian Jaap van Dissel, who is less involved in politics.โ€

Support for Van Ranst

According to Belgian media, Conings also threatened an attack against the system and even military personnel. Therefore, several barracks, including those of Schaffen and Leopoldsburg, have been closed.

Virologist Van Ranst gets a lot of support on social media. โ€œYou dont always have to agree with Marc Van Ranst – and often I am not – to strongly condemn any threat by force,โ€ writes for example Rik Torfs, a well-known Belgian church lawyer and professor of KU Leuven, on Twitter. Sammy Mahdi, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, also wished strength to the virologist and his family. โ€œThis must be terrible.โ€