The career soldier Jürgen Conings, who has been at the centre of a nation-wide manhunt since 17 May, was a member of the far-right Vlaams Belang political party until the end of 2020.
Party leader Tom Van Grieken said on 21 May 2021 on a VRT program that he "found it unfortunate that his party is involved in the discussion," and that he regretted every link that is made with the party. On Tuesday, Vlaams Belang confirmed to De Morgen that Conings was a member last year.
"So what he was a member? He was also a high-ranking member of the Belgian army at the time," Chris Janssens, the party's fraction leader, said on Twitter. "For the time being, membership of a political party is not accompanied by a screening by State Security. Can Operation Damage Vlaams Belang stop now?" he added. In April 2020, Conings paid a membership fee of €12.50 to Vlaams Belang, but he did not renew the membership at the end of the year. The career soldier allegedly stole an arsenal of deadly weapons from a military barracks and disappeared, resulting in large-scale searches, which involved troops from Luxembourg and Germany. He had made previous threats to Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst – the man behind many of the calls related to Belgium’s coronavirus lockdown measures – who has been placed in a safehouse under police protection. Several other people have also received additional police protection. Before his disappearance, he withdrew a total of €3,000 from his account over several days. That was the maximum amount he could withdraw at that time, according to reports from Het Nieuwsblad.
Et alors? Hij was toen ook hooggeplaatst personeelslid van het Belgisch leger. Het lidmaatschap van een politieke partij gaat vooralsnog niet gepaard met een screening door Staatsveiligheid of OCAD... ? Kan de Operatie Beschadiging Vlaams Belang nu stoppen?! https://t.co/QORtVevDGh— Chris Janssens (@chrisjanssensVB) June 1, 2021