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Conings manhunt cost defence ministry €870,000

The hunt involved a massive police and military efforts. © Belga

The manhunt to find fugitive corporal Jürgen Conings cost the public purse €867,045, defence minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) told the parliament’s defence committee.

The Conings case held the nation’s authorities in thrall for 35 days from May, when he went missing together with a stock of heavy weaponry secreted from the barracks where he worked. He also left behind two letters announcing an attack and hinting that he did not expect to escape alive.

Massive police and military resources were deployed in the search for the man, including aid from forces in Germany and the Netherlands. Conings was eventually found dead by his own hand on 21 June.

On Sunday, parts of a report by the Comite I, which oversees the intelligence services, were leaked, including the conclusion that ‘serious errors’ had been made by military intelligence which created the situation in which Conings, a right-wing extremist considered to have terrorist tendencies, could still have access to weapons, including machine guns and a rocket launcher.

Speaking to the committee yesterday, Dedonder promised steps have already been taken to improve the situation. That includes an over-arching policy plan for the military intelligence service SGRS/ADIV, which has for too long been operating without one, she said.

It would also include a multi-year plan with clear middle-term priorities.

Intelligence will also continue to oversee the presence of extremists with the ranks of the military – one area where it did spectacularly fail in the Conings case, with the loss of one life rather than many.

Where sanctions are in order, and where the rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion have been respected, they will be applied on a case-by-case basis, with an eye to equality.