Manhunt Day Ten: Army and police renew search for Conings in nature preserve

Manhunt Day Ten: Army and police renew search for Conings in nature preserve
Credit: Belga

The army and police started combing the forest area near Lanklaar again this morning, searching for a second time the nature reserve near where the car of Jürgen Conings was found last week.

The search started in the area above the N75, and the population is being asked to avoid the area, Wenke Roggen of the federal public prosecutor's office confirmed to De Standaard.

The Missing Persons Unit and tracking dogs have been deployed in the new search of Hoge Kempen National Park in Limburg.

It isn’t yet clear why a new search is being carried out in the now 10-day-long manhunt for the armed career soldier who disappeared after allegedly stealing an arsenal of deadly weapons from a military barracks.

The first search of the park, which officially began Wednesday, 19 May, ended on Saturday, 22 May, whereupon the park was reopened to the public.

Because of the park’s proximity to Dutch and German borders, 100 reinforcements from those countries (as well as police from Luxembourg) joined the search (which involved around 400 members of the Belgian military and police forces) during that time.

Police are now saying that the campsite they found in the woods on Saturday may not have actually served as a shelter for Conings, and that a mini fridge and soda can authorities discovered had been there a long time.

“According to initial findings, the tent has not been inhabited for some time,” sources from the involved authorities confirmed to Nieuwsblad.

“The tent may not have been a hiding place for the fugitive soldier.”

Authorities hope a DNA investigation still in progress will provide a definitive answer, but are facing the likely possibility it’s a dead end.

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At this point, investigators are not sure whether the man was ever in the National Park at all, putting all theories back on the table.

Nieuwsblad also reports that Coning made a threat to attack the Tevhid mosque in Maasmechelen, close to the National Park, which is now under guard. He also made threats against virologist Marc Van Ranst, who remains under police protection with his family

It has also been learned that a planned investigation by the military intelligence service into Jürgen Conings was suspended in early May when another case was determined to be more important at the time.

The internal investigation by the Ministry of Defence (in regards to “mistakes” made in the handling of the Conings case) is not expected to be completed until 15 June.

A full timeline of coverage from The Brussels Times can be found here

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