A number of mosques in the province of Limburg have decided to remain closed today, as a precaution while the heavily armed military man Jürgen Conings remains at large.
Yesterday saw an unprecedented police and military presence in the area of the Hoge Kempen national park, where Conings is thought to be hiding out.
Conings is known to have extreme right-wing views, which saw him placed under covert surveillance by military intelligence. He was also included on a list of the terrorist risk analysis unit Ocam as a PGE: a potentially violent extremist.
To date, mosques have closed in Dilsen and Bilzen, Lommel and Hulst.
“We had a visit from the police and then decided to close our mosque,” said Nevzat Yilmaz, president of the Diyanet mosque in Bilzen.
“At the moment we don't know until when. Since this soldier is still walking around with extremist ideas and our mosque-goers are therefore at risk, we have to err on the side of caution. We will stay in touch with the association of Limburg mosques and with the local authorities.”
The El Hidaya mosque in Maaseik closed yesterday.
“We have agreed with the local police because there is a terrorist threat and in order to protect people's lives,” mosque official Ibrahim Hajaj told Het Belang Van Limburg.
Elsewhere, mosques are remaining open, while security is being tightened, and the public is being asked to report any suspicious movements.
• Meanwhile the VRT reveals that Conings had an authorisation to be in charge of weapons depots at Leopoldsburg and Peutie, the two barracks he worked at, but the authorisation expired at the beginning of the year and was not renewed.
In March, it was revealed that military intelligence had identified 30 members of the armed forces with extremist views, who were being kept under surveillance. That may have been the reason his arsenal authorisation was allowed to expire, but that does not seem to have stopped him from moving freely, and even removing heavy weaponry from stocks.
• Yesterday military sources explained that Conings’ car, discovered late on Tuesday on the edge of the Dilsenbos wood, contained some heavy weapons, but was also booby-trapped using a grenade and a set of wires. The trap was made safe by the army bomb disposal unit DOVO.
The hunt for Conings continues.