German and Dutch special forces today joined the hunt for an ‘anti-lockdown Rambo’ who vanished into a Belgian forest after vowing to fight to the death against virologists who have ‘taken everything away from us.’
Corporal Jurgen Conings, 46, deserted from his barracks on Monday armed with four rocket launchers, a machine gun and a pistol after threatening Marc Van Ranst, the medic who led Belgian’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
A force of 400 Belgian soldiers and police officers armed with assault rifles have deployed to the Hoge Kempen forest in the far northeast of the country close to the Dutch border.
German and Dutch security forces have joined them as helicopters and armoured vehicles were deployed to hunt for Conings in the 12,000-hectare national park made up of heath and woodland.
The war veteran left several notes, writing in one to his family that he ‘could no longer live in a society where politicians and virologists have taken everything away from us.’
His girlfriend Gwendy, 46, has told local media that all she wants is ‘her tough, sweet teddy bear’ back, describing Conings as a ‘loving father’ to his two children and her daughter.
Conings – a trained sniper who has served in Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan – has been dubbed ‘Rambo’ and warned that he ‘would join the resistance and would not surrender’ in a final message.
But Gwendy said today she doesn’t recognise Conings as a Rambo-like character nor does she know anything of his anti-lockdown stance.
‘That’s not my Jurgen,’ she told Algemeen Dagblad. ‘I don’t know him like that at all. As far as I know, he had no extremist thoughts. And as far as I know he never threatened Marc Van Ranst.’
She added that he would occasionally swear at the television because of the Covid lockdown rules.
‘But aren’t there a lot of people who swear at that, who are all sick of it? Hand on heart: I have never heard anything about death threats,’ Gwendy added.
Shots were heard last night as teams of heavily-armed officers entered the national park with armoured cars and helicopters on standby.
This followed the discovery nearby on Tuesday night of Conings’ vehicle. The four missile launchers were inside, along with some munitions but Coning is also armed with an FN P90 machine gun and a handgun.
Van Ranst, who has proposed many of the social distancing measures adopted in Belgium, spoke out yesterday from a secure location under armed protection.
He said that ‘being against COVID measures and COVID vaccines all too often coincides with aggression of violence and raw racism.
‘Let one thing be clear: such threats do not make the slightest impression on me,’ he added.
The health expert claimed there was evidence that Conings had been watching his home.
There were indications that this guy had come to scout the town where I live,’ Van Ranst said. ‘He spent a number of hours there.’
Conings was reportedly disciplined and confined to a desk job earlier this year after tweeting: ‘Who has Van Ranst’s address?’
Hundreds of special forces soldiers have today joined the hunt for a heavily armed Belgian soldier who is on the run after threatening the country’s top virologist and vowing to fight to the death against lockdown restrictions. Trained sniper Corporal Jurgen Conings, 46, disappeared on Monday after threatening Marc Van Ranst, a leading academic who has advised the Belgian government on the coronavirus crisis and is vocal on social media.