Terrorist threat somewhat higher: possibility of an attack in the Netherlands is realistic

The terrorist threat has again increased somewhat over the past few months, due to factors including the war in Gaza, desecration of the Quran, and the threat posed by Jihadist networks. The threat level therefore remains at 4 (on a scale of 1 to 5). This means that there is a realistic possibility that an attack will take place in the Netherlands. These are some of the main conclusions of the June 2024 Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands (DTN) which was released today. The DTN is produced by the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV). The threat level was raised from level 3 (significant) to level 4 (substantial) last December.

Enlarge image Soldiers are searching for explosives during an exercise at De Kuip stadium, Rotterdam. Recent jihadist propaganda calls on followers to commit attacks during sporting events.
Image: ©ANP / ANP
Soldiers are searching for explosives during an exercise at De Kuip stadium, Rotterdam. Recent jihadist propaganda calls on followers to commit attacks during sporting events.

Jihadist threat remains substantial and is evolving online

Jihadism continues to pose the biggest terrorist threat to the Netherlands, with supporters being fed propaganda with images of the war in Gaza and the desecration of the Quran in the Netherlands. During the past six months such images have led to terrorist acts of violence (or preparations for such acts) in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe.

In addition, networks with a presence in Europe continue to pose a terrorist threat to the Netherlands and other countries in Europe. Some networks operate autonomously, while others maintain contacts with ISIS groups in other parts of the world. Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), originally the Afghan branch of ISIS, plays a key role in this. ISKP and networks in Europe affiliated with it are made up mostly of individuals from Central Asia. Some of them were previously members of jihadist combat groups in Syria and Iraq.

In addition, certain individuals in the Netherlands and surrounding countries are becoming radicalised online outside of known jihadist networks. Some of these individuals are very young. Various arrests in Europe have revealed that some have actually made preparations for an attack or have even carried out attacks.

Violent potential of right-wing terrorist online community

Individuals active within the right-wing terrorist online community, some of whom are very young, continue to pose a violent threat. Ideological beliefs appear to be becoming less and less relevant within this community; it is rather the desire to commit acts of violence and spark outrage that is leading these young people to right-wing terrorist chat groups and platforms online. The threat posed by right-wing terrorists is less predictable and harder to detect than a few years ago. This is due to ideological blurring, the fragmentation of online groups, frequently changing profiles, and efforts by those involved to hide their identity.

The remainder of the Dutch right-wing extremist landscape consists mostly of groups that seek to normalise right-wing extremist ideas and to make the ‘white race’ more resilient through physical training, for instance in ‘active clubs’. These groups are still few in number and limited in size, but they sometimes have a large online reach. They claim in principle to regard violence against people as counterproductive. The wider acceptance of their ideas could however lead to increasing intolerance towards the authorities, minorities and political opponents. In the long term this could make violence against such institutions and groups seem more acceptable. Collaboration between right-wing extremist groups appears to be growing both within the Netherlands and internationally.

Small section of anti-institutional movement and ‘sovereign citizen’ movement prepared to use violence

Promoting the narrative of a ‘malevolent elite’ fosters distrust towards democratic institutions and undermines the functioning of the democratic legal order. For a small number of supporters this narrative also serves as a prelude to intimidation and violence. The democratic legal order can also be undermined from within institutions by any supporters of the ‘malevolent elite’ narrative who work for distrusted institutions, and actively promote their ideas at work.

Several tens of thousands of self-proclaimed ‘sovereign citizens’ – and possibly more – form a prominent group within the Dutch anti-institutional movement. Some of these individuals regard Dutch legislation as invalid and therefore refuse to pay tax, for example. They regularly engage in confrontations with the police, bailiffs and others acting on behalf of the authorities, and these incidents sometimes involve aggression, threats and violence. A small minority of sovereign citizens in the Netherlands are prepared to use offensive violence against what they perceive as the ‘malevolent elite’. Several sovereign citizens have been found in possession of firearms, other weapons and ammunition.

Left-wing extremism

Developments relating to left-wing extremism are being monitored. These developments mean that the violent extremist or terrorist threat in the Netherlands is currently limited. It is conceivable that in the future a small number of individual left-wing extremists may deem it necessary to use violence to reach their goals. More hardline activities have recently been observed, but for the most part these do not go beyond forms of intimidation, such as doxing, where people’s personal details are published online. Furthermore, left-wing extremists joined pro-Palestine protests at universities, some of which have involved public order disturbances, the destruction of property, and violence against the police.

Threat level

In December 2023, the threat level in the Netherlands was raised from 3 to 4 (on a scale of 1 to 5). Threat level 4 indicates that the possibility of an attack is substantial. There are no standard measures or national recommendations linked to the threat level. The detailed information in the DTN allows security partners, including the police, municipalities and ministries, to respond to the threat by taking appropriate measures. All security partners remain alert and constant monitoring takes place to determine whether any additional measures are necessary, and if so, where and in what form. In recent months extra security measures have been taken where necessary. Information about such extra measures is not made public. Another purpose of the threat level is to raise awareness and inform the public about the threat that exists.

The full report will be published as soon as the translation is available.