Virologist Van Ranst confirms that Belgian military fugitive was looking for him

The Belgian military fugitive Jürgen Conings, who threatened violence against the government and virologists, was near the virologist Marc Van Ranst for two hours on Monday evening. Van Ranst confirmed that.

The Belgian Justice Minister Van Quickenborne said earlier today that Conings had been hanging around for two hours near a “target” on Monday. After two hours, he left. Van Quickenborne wouldn‘t say who the target was.

Van Ranst is not secretive about it. He knew Conings was near him on Monday. “Sure. That was one of the reasons why the police immediately took the threats very seriously,” he said to VRT News.

Van Ranst and his family were immediately taken to a safe house. He’s light about that: “It‘s a bit the same as staying in your room, huh?”

Not an impulsive act

The 46-year-old Conings disappeared on Monday with a presumably large batch of weapons that he had taken from a storage facility of the Belgian army.

“ The judicial investigation shows that this has not been an impulsive act,” said Van Quickenborne. “The man has been preparing for this act for days. It’s someone on the terrorist list. He‘s very dangerous.”

Maasmechelen

Since Monday he has been searched with man and power, especially in a forest near Maasmechelen, just across the border near Geleen. Journalists who want to know how an army and police search goes out there have been dispatched.

A photographer said at the beginning of the afternoon that there were “developments going on”, but the police wouldn’t say anything. A press compartment at the Hoge Kempen National Park has been evacuated and an ambulance has been driven away from the forest. It‘s not clear if anyone was in the ambulance.

Potentially violent extremist

Conings car was found on Tuesday in a nature reserve. There were four rocket launchers, including ammunition. The Belgian justice system assumes that Conings had more weapons in his car and took it into the woods.

Yesterday his camouflage tent with sail and sleeping bag was found. It’s still under investigation for DNA traces and fingerprints, says a reporter from the VRT. In the man‘s car, cops found loose wires. At first it was assumed that they were harmless.

“ Now the police have found out that if the wires are pulled, it creates a blowtorch,” said the reporter. “That means the CID really still assumes that this man presents a potential danger.”

Conings was already known to the Belgian counter-terrorism services. He is seen as a “potentially violent extremist” with far-right ideas. It’s not clear how he could still take weapons from the military ammunition depot.