Threat continues to evolve, but threat level remains at 4

Threat continues to evolve, but threat level remains at 4

The jihadist threat to the Netherlands is changing. The collapse of the ‘caliphate’ has weakened ISIS as an organisation. Since October 2017 there have hardly been any jihadist attacks in Western Europe. It is still too early to say if this trend will continue, and this is why the threat level is being maintained at 4 (on a 1 to 5 scale). Level 4 indicates that the threat of an attack is real. These are some of the key points made in the 47th edition of the Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands.

There are several reasons to keep the threat level at 4, despite the changing threat. Both ISIS and al Qa’ida are still willing and able to carry out attacks in the West. The situation in Syria and Iraq remains highly unstable. Moreover, a number of people have been arrested in the West on suspicion of preparing attacks.

The Netherlands

Since June 2017 there have been no known instances of individuals leaving the Netherlands and reaching a jihadist-controlled area. This state of affairs has resulted in a gradual change to the jihadist threat in the Netherlands. As in the pre-2012 period, the movement is focusing more on social activities. It is also conceivable that people who had previously left the country and returned are joining the jihadist movement in the Netherlands. It is troubling that jihadists are using the internet to boost their influence within broader Salafist circles.

The nature of their propaganda is also changing. Whereas previously the focus was on the caliphate as an ideal state, most of the current crop of propaganda glorifies military struggle.

International dimensions

The return of foreign fighters to Europe poses a long-term security threat. They may be part of existing networks that could be involved in plotting attacks. Concerns also exist about the hundreds of ISIS fighters currently being held in camps by Syrian Kurds. Under these circumstances new networks could easily form. In recent months ISIS has done more to engage people who already live in the West, often friends or family members of jihadist travellers. For ISIS this represents a new way of directing attacks.

Right-wing and left-wing extremism

There are no indications that right-wing terrorist structures or groups are operating in the Netherlands. The authorities have taken note of the growth of the racist group Erkenbrand, which has been attracting more and more followers. With its anti-democratic ideas, this group poses a threat to the democratic legal order.

Recent months have been relatively uneventful in terms of left-wing extremist protest activities and demonstrations. Within the Netherlands, the debate on asylum and migration policy remains a causal factor of left-wing extremism, as do the controversy surrounding Black Pete and the issue of (perceived) police violence.

Polarisation

The past few months have witnessed a polarised debate on certain issues, including Salafism and recurring topics like asylum seekers and the figure of Black Pete. These disputes are driving a wedge between different ethnic and religious groups in society.

The Turkish assault on Afrin has caused tensions to rise throughout Europe, which has in some cases led to violence. The tense political situation in Turkey is a cause for concern among Dutch people of Turkish descent. There has been controversy around Diyanet, the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, following reports in the European media about efforts to identify political opponents of the Turkish government.