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Belgium: Police find body of rogue far-right soldier

June 20, 2021

Authorities had launched a massive manhunt for the soldier after he threatened a top virologist and stole arms from a military base.

A Belgian police officer stands at a road block during a manhunt for a fugitive soldier
Authorities scoured northeastern Belgium looking for the soldier after weapons were found in his abandoned carImage: Laurie Dieffembacq/BELGA/dpa/picture alliance

Belgian authorities uncovered a body on Sunday that they say is likely that of a fugitive soldier with suspected right-wing extremist views.

Police launched a massive manhunt for the soldier, identified as Jurgen Conings, after he went missing on May 17.

Prior to his disappearance, he'd threatened a top virologist and other public figures and hoarded heavy weaponry in an army barracks. 

What did authorities say?

Prosecutors said the body was discovered on Sunday by people walking through the woods in the eastern Belgian town of Dilsen-Stockem, near the Dutch border.

Initial findings indicate that Conings appeared to have died by suicide, but that investigations are still ongoing, Belgian federal police said in a statement.

 "According to the first elements of the investigation, it is Jurgen Conings," the statement said.

The Belgian Defense Ministry later confirmed that the body was Conings, saying in a statement that the soldier "has been found dead."

What do we know about him?

Prior to his disappearance, Conings was placed on an anti-terrorism watch list.

Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst
Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst was one of the targets of the soldier's threatsImage: Dirk Waem/Belga/dpa/picture alliance

Hundreds of security forces and several helicopters scoured northeast Belgium for weeks looking for the 46-year-old, after his abandoned vehicle was found with four rocket launchers inside.

He was believed to be armed and dangerous, as he was suspected of stealing weapons from a military base where he was the instructor.

He'd threatened Belgium's most prominent virologist, Marc Van Ranst, and other public figures on Facebook in recent months, along with making racist remarks. 

Conings had a three decade-long career in the military and was reportedly an expert marksman. 

The case has sparked criticism of the Belgian government, after it was revealed that he'd still had access to weapons despite being on a watch list for his extremist views.

rs/nm (AP, AFP)