Persistent threat from travelling and local jihadists

The jihadist threat against the West has certainly not diminished, not even after the fall of Raqqa. Both al Qa’ida and ISIS still have the intention and capacity to carry out attacks in Europe. It must still be assumed that there are ISIS operatives in Europe who are preparing attacks here. Although there are no concrete indications at this time, both small-scale and large-scale jihadist attacks can also occur in the Netherlands. This is according to the terrorism threat level in the Netherlands (Dreigingsbeeld Terrorisme Nederland, DTN) published by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV).

As a result, the threat level remains at 4 out of 5: the chance of an attack in the Netherlands is real. The threat comes from returnees, as some combatants who have travelled to ISIS-held territory are likely to attempt to return in the coming period. There is also a threat posed by jihadists who have never travelled out and their local networks. They can be inspired, encouraged or directed to carry out an attack. Propaganda and online instructions play a major role in this.

The Netherlands

In recent times the Netherlands has notably appeared on the radar more often as a potential target of individual ISIS members and sympathisers. Several Dutch and Dutch-speaking jihadists have threatened violence against the Netherlands in 2017. This is evidenced for instance by calls to carry out attacks in the Netherlands. In general, all countries participating in the anti-ISIS coalition are considered legitimate targets by jihadists.


Since July 2017, ISIS has used official propaganda to call female supporters to join the physical battle. The fact that ISIS has now put out an official call may cause more women to decide to use violence as well. It is expected that attacks involving women may in turn inspire more women to carry out attacks.

Notably, ISIS has also spread numerous messages which may contain deliberate inaccuracies. The most striking example is the repeated claim of responsibility for the shooting in Las Vegas. It is possible that the organisation hopes to sow fear, encourage its supporters to take action or undermine trust in government-issued information.

Political Salafism

Several political Salafists in the Netherlands are under financial and legal pressure. Within Salafist circles, the legal issues faced by their leaders are considered confirmation of their view that the outside world is faithless and hostile. This may have a radicalising effect on supporters. There have long been concerns about Islamic institutions in the Netherlands being funded by countries where Salafism is the state religion.

Radicalisation and polarisation

The threat of violence from right-wing terrorism is increasing in Europe. There is no evidence of a comparable threat of violence in the Netherlands. An action by one individual remains possible, as do sporadic confrontations between left-wing and right-wing extremists. The polarised climate in the Netherlands can become a breeding ground for radicalisation processes and may in rare cases lead to a lower violence threshold. This is true for all ideological orientations.