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Manhunt Day Five: Not clear if search went on last night

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It is ‘not clear’ if the search for the fugitive military man Jürgen Conings went on through the night or is continuing this morning, the VRT reports from the scene. Yesterday press and media were moved further away from the command post.

In previous days, huge materiel has been brought up to help in sweeping a portion of the Hoge Kempen National Park in Limburg province. That included armoured cars, lorries, helicopters and support from neighbouring forces in Germany and the Netherlands.

However a search through the night of Thursday to Friday produced only one clue: a groundsheet that may have served Conings as a makeshift shelter.

In the course of yesterday the perimeter to be searched was opened out, but still no sign of the fugitive, who is considered heavily armed and extremely dangerous.

Conings is a career military man aged 46, who has seen service in Afghanistan and is trained as a marksman and firearms instructor. He is also known to be a right-wing extremist, and is considered potentially violent.

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Yesterday in parliament, both defence minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) and prime minister Alexander De Croo had to field questions from MPs asking how a man with such a profile could have access to weapons, or indeed be kept in the armed forces at all.

Last night, the VRT reports, a major column of vehicles left the command post in Maasmechelen, leaving behind only a small police presence. No information is yet officially available on what the plan for today and the days to come might be.

Meanwhile there are reports that Conings appears to have left his service medals on the grave of his parents in a cemetery in Peer, about 30km from Maasmechelen. Given that Conings has made it clear in letters, to the police and to the mother of his child, that he is prepared to die for his beliefs, that could be a worrying sign.

In related news, Het Laatste Nieuws reports anonymous sources in the military presence who call into question the whole search tactic.

People don’t believe he is still there,” said one source in the search detail.

Conings’ colleagues think it makes no sense for him to stay in a forest for four days.

The undercover techniques we are taught do not match with what the police think.”

Alternative hypothesis: Conings may have gone into hiding elsewhere.