Manhunt on rogue soldier in Belgium draws attention to extremists in Western armed forces

BRUSSELS — A weeklong manhunt for a Belgian soldier whom authorities suspect of planning a terrorist attack highlights concerns about right-wing extremism in Western armies.

Jurgen Conings, who was on a watch list for his extremist views, disappeared on Monday after taking weapons including rocket launchers at his military base and making threats against public figures and institutions, Belgian authorities said . Belgian media said he threatened to kill a prominent virologist, who was placed under police protection after Mr Conings was spotted near his home.

The discovery of Mr. Conings’ SUV near a national park on Tuesday sparked a search involving hundreds of police and soldiers. Authorities canceled the search on Friday, saying they could not locate the 46-year-old in the more than 30,000 acres of pine forests, heathlands and lakes in Hoge Kempen, a national park near the borders of Belgium with the Netherlands and Germany.

Western militaries grapple with far-right extremism within their ranks. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered measures to counter extremism, including a definition review and updated recruit selection, after current and former servicemen with ties to groups right-wingers took part in the riot on the Capitol on January 6.

Last year, Germany disbanded a company of special forces commandos, claiming it had been infiltrated by far-right extremism. In France last month, a group of retired generals published a letter in a far-right magazine saying the spread of Islamism and other ideologies was pushing France towards civil war.

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