Belgium police hunt armed soldier with far-right links who threatened virologists

Man thought to be carrying a rocket launcher and sub-machinegun

Left: An undated handout picture of Jurgen Conings. Right: Belgian Police file image. Reuters/Getty Images
Left: An undated handout picture of Jurgen Conings. Right: Belgian Police file image. Reuters/Getty Images

A manhunt is under way in Belgium for a heavily armed soldier with far-right sympathies who threatened one of the country’s top virologists.

Belgium’s Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said the man, named in local media as Jurgen Conings, 46, was an “acute threat” and that there were “indications that he is violent”.

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The hunt was launched after the discovery of what appeared to be farewell letters penned by the suspect, which said he did not want to live in “a society ruled by virologists” and pledged to “join the resistance”.

The man was reported to be carrying a bulletproof vest, rocket launcher, sub-machinegun and a pistol, which he stole from a military barracks. Police are focusing their efforts on north-east Belgium.

The suspect, who was on a terrorist watch list because of his far-right links, previously made threats again Marc Van Ranst, a prominent Covid-19 virologist in Belgium, and other experts.

Dr Van Ranst and his family were taken into protective police custody.

“Being against Covid measures and Covid vaccines all too often coincides with aggression of violence and raw racism,” Dr Van Ranst said.

“Let one thing be clear: such threats do not make an impression on me.”

Marc van Ranst has been taken into protective custody. Photonews via Getty Images
Marc van Ranst has been taken into protective custody. Photonews via Getty Images

Jurgen Conings was described as a heavily built man, adorned with tattoos, who served recently as a weapons instructor.

“It is feared that he intends to carry out a violent action, against himself or against other persons, but the correct possible targets are still unclear,” federal prosecutor Eric Van Duyse said.

Updated: May 19, 2021 06:59 PM

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