Jihadist travellers and local jihadists continue to pose a threat
The jihadist threat to the West has by no means diminished, not even after the fall of Raqqa. Both al Qa’ida and ISIS still have the will and the means to carry out attacks in European countries. It must still be assumed that there are ISIS operatives in Europe who are preparing attacks here. Although there are currently no concrete indications that any attacks are being prepared, both small- and large-scale jihadist attacks could occur in the Netherlands. These are some of the key conclusions of the 46th edition of the Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands (DTN), published by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV).
The threat level for the Netherlands remains at ‘substantial’ (level 4 on a scale of 1 to 5), meaning that there is still a real chance of an attack in the Netherlands. Part of the threat comes from returnees: it is expected that several jihadist travellers will attempt to return to the Netherlands in the coming period. There is also a risk associated with jihadists who have never left the country, and with the local networks they have here. They could be inspired, encouraged or directed to carry out an attack. Propaganda and online instructions play an important role in this respect.
In the period under review, the Netherlands has been turning up more often as a potential target on the radar of individual ISIS members and sympathisers. In 2017 various Dutch or Dutch-speaking jihadists have threatened to commit violence against the Netherlands. This is apparent, for instance, from messages calling for attacks to be carried out in the Netherlands. Generally speaking, all countries involved in the anti-ISIS coalition are considered legitimate targets by jihadists.
Since the summer of 2017, ISIS’s official propaganda has been calling for female sympathisers to take part in actual fighting. The fact that ISIS has issued an official appeal may prompt more women to decide to commit violence. It is to be expected that attacks involving women will in turn inspire other women to carry out attacks.
It is also noteworthy that, in the period under review, ISIS spread many messages that may intentionally have contained inaccurate information, the most conspicuous being their repeated claim to be behind the shooting in Las Vegas. The organisation may be attempting to sow fear, galvanise its supporters or undermine people’s trust in government information.
Various political Salafists in the Netherlands are under financial and legal pressure. In Salafist circles the legal issues their leaders are facing are seen as confirmation of their view that the outside world is full of hostile infidels
. This may have a radicalising effect on their own supporters. There have been concerns for some time now about the foreign funding of Salafist institutions in the Netherlands from countries where Salafism is the state religion.
Radicalisation and polarisation
In Europe there is a growing threat of right-wing terrorist violence. There are no indications of such a violent threat in the Netherlands. Acts of violence committed by lone actors remain conceivable, as do sporadic confrontations between left- and right-wing extremists. The polarised climate in the Netherlands could form a breeding ground for radicalisation and in some cases lower the threshold for violence. This applies to all ideologies.