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Hundreds of special forces soldiers are hunting an anti-lockdown Rambo who has vowed to "fight to the death" against virologists.
Heavily armed Belgian soldier Corporal Jurgen Conings is on the run after threatening the country's top virologist as he vowed to take extreme action to battle coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
He made the threats against Marc Van Ranst, a leading academic who has advised the Belgian government on the pandemic and is very vocal on social media.
Conings, 46, is thought to be on the run in the Hoge Kempen forest stealing four rocket launchers, a machine gun and a pistol from one of the barracks where he worked.
Mr Van Ranst and his family have been taken to a safe place.
Conings left several notes, writing in one to his family that he "could no longer live in a society where politicians and virologists have taken everything away from us".
He served in the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan and has been dubbed 'Rambo' after the iconic film character John Rambo, a US Special Forces veteran who becomes the hunted.
Conings warned that he "would join the resistance and would not surrender" in a final message.
Belgium's federal prosecutor's office said around 250 police officers and soldiers were deployed in the forest near the Dutch border in the hunt for Conings.
Shots were heard as teams of heavily-armed officers entered the forest, with armoured vehicles and helicopters on standby.
Mr Van Rast, who has proposed many of the social distancing measures adopted in Belgium, spoke out from a secure location.
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He said that "being against Covid measures and Covid vaccines all too often coincides with aggression of violence and raw racism".
Mr Van Rast added: "Let one thing be clear: such threats do not make the slightest impression on me."
The suspect's car has been found with the rocket launchers, but is thought that Conings is still armed with a handgun and an FN P90 semi-automatic submachine gun, which can pierce bullet proof vests.
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Conings has combat experience as a sniper from his time in the army and has been described as "an acute threat". The public has been warned not to approach him.
He is known to have led hostile environment training courses.
On his Twitter profile Conings describes himself as a "Belgian Air Force soldier who likes fitness, bodybuilding and boxing".
He is said to have already featured on a list of extremists monitored by Belgium's anti-terrorist agency and army sources told Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws an "extreme right-wing weapons nuts who does not shy away from violence".
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo told broadcaster VTM it was "unacceptable" that Conings had been allowed to access the weapons, and Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder said an inquiry would be launched.
Mosques in Dilsen, Bilzen, Lommel and Hulst were closed over fears they could become targets.
Local media reported that several had been visited by police and advised of the threat.
- In the News
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