Soldier suspected of stealing rocket launchers before going missing in Belgian forest

A police search for a Belgian Lot suspected of right-wing extremist sympathies, which has disappeared after alleged theft of weapons and ammunition, has raised new questions about the role of extremist politics in the European military.

Jürgen Conings, 46, a member of the Belgian army, left his home in northeast Belgium near the Dutch border on May 17th. A day later, his car was found with four anti-tank rocket launchers and ammunition, the prosecutor said in a statement that it most likely “still has weapons in his possession.”

The statement said he had “possibly aggressive intentions” towards Belgian people or institutions.

A Warrant for his arrest was issued, and both the police and the military did searched 30,000 acres of forest in a national park, with no luck.

About 100 army reservists and six armored vehicles were sent to join the search. Prosecutors said. Gunshots were heard in the area on Wednesday, “but they could not be further identified.”

Reuters reported that Conings had threatened Marc Van Ranst, one of Belgium’s leading virologists and government advisor.

Van Ranst, who was not immediately available for comment, did said on twitter that he has received numerous social media threats since the pandemic began. He and his family are now in protective custody – what Van Ranst on Twitter calls “safe house. “

Van Ranst also said These threats to his life were made on the website of Virus Waanzig, which means “virus madness,” which has spoken out against lockdown restrictions. On May 10, website chairman Michael Verstraeten confirmed the threat of violence against Van Ranst and asked user: “Would you be so kind as not to make death threats on this website?”

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Van Ranst, a familiar face on news television during the pandemic, was first protected by police in July 2020, according to Reuters.

“To be against health measures and vaccines and against the coronavirus too often coincides with a glorification of violence and brutal racism. … One thing is clear: I am not impressed by such threats,” he said wrote on Twitter last week.

Belgian police were looking for Jürgen Conings, a soldier suspected of right-wing extremist views who fled after threatening public figures.Belgian Federal Police / AFP – Getty Images

The case has gripped Belgium and raised wider questions about how the country deals with discontent in its armed forces. According to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Conings was on a potential terror threat list compiled by the Belgian terror threat monitor OCAM.

“The question is how someone who works in the defense service – who is on a safety list as a person with extremist ideas and who has already issued threats – was able to gain access to and take away weapons,” De Croo told the Belga News Agency.

The case underscores the challenge facing Western democracies to identify and stop terrorist attacks inspired by the right-wing ideology emanating from security services.

The German secret service announced last year that it had recorded 1,400 incidents of suspected right-wing extremism among the police, armed forces and security services in the three years up to March 2020.

In April the first British police officer to be convicted of membership in a banned far-right terrorist group was sentenced to four years and four months in prison.

Reuters contributed.

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