NCTV: chance of attack in the Netherlands still real
The jihadist threat has evolved over the past few months, but the threat level for the Netherlands remains at ‘substantial’ (level 4 on a scale of 1 to 5). This is the key conclusion of the 48th edition of Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands (DTN), published by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV).
The changes identified in the previous DTN have continued. The number of attacks in Europe has fallen significantly since October 2017. ISIS’s ability to plan and carry out attacks in Europe has also been significantly weakened.
There are two key reasons why the threat level has been kept at ‘substantial’. Firstly, there are international jihadist networks operating in the Netherlands, some with links to ISIS or al Qa’ida, which still intend to mount attacks in Europe. The second reason is that the Dutch jihadist movement continues to pose a violent threat.Adherents of the movement are involved in planning attacks, but so far this has not led to a concrete threat.
Jihadist movement in the Netherlands
Despite stagnating growth, the size of the Dutch jihadist movement is cause for concern. This group, which grew significantly between 2013 and 2016, may be inclined to embrace a ‘revenge narrative’ that blames the West for the collapse of the ‘caliphate’. This narrative may be used to justify attacks.
The movement is reorienting itself following the collapse of the ‘caliphate’. Jihadists now no longer have a compelling reason to travel to that part of the world, and their focus has shifted to da’wa, or spreading the jihadist message. This may lead to a rise in the number of jihadists in the Netherlands. In addition to adherents of jihadism, there are also several thousand jihadist sympathisers, and ISIS sympathisers in particular, in the Netherlands.
In spite of the heavy losses it has suffered, ISIS still exists. In the past few months is has become apparent that ISIS is continuing its jihadist struggle in both Iraq and Syria using insurgent, or guerrilla, tactics, such as hit-and-run attacks and kidnappings. The factors which led to the rise of ISIS are still very much in evidence. There is still a breeding ground for discontent, which an organisation like ISIS may channel and exploit.
With regard to the threat to the West it should be noted that, in a number of European countries, dozens of prisoners convicted of terrorist offences will soon be released after serving their sentences. It is likely that some of them still hold jihadist ideas.
The influence of Salafism in the Netherlands has been growing for several years. A segment of the Salafist movement advocates and legitimises active intolerance and anti-democratic activities, and consequently poses a threat to national security. There are also individuals within the Salafist movement who legitimise terrorist violence, typically veiled in religious terms.
Left-wing and right-wing extremism
Right-wing extremists are growing more confident. They continue to focus on protesting against the perceived islamisation of the Netherlands, the arrival of asylum seekers and the perceived loss of Dutch identity. It is conceivable that individuals or small groups may engage in violence. Over the past few months left-wing protest groups have carried out very few extremist activities.