NCTV: real chance of attack in the Netherlands
Although the nature of the jihadist threat has changed, the threat to the Netherlands remains substantial. Consequently, the threat level remains at 4 out of a possible 5. This is according to the 48th Terrorist Threat Assessment Netherlands (Dreigingsbeeld Terrorisme Nederland, DTN) published by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV). The stabbing at Amsterdam Central station illustrates the current threat to the Netherlands.
The change in the nature of the threat, as described in the previous DTN, has persisted. The number of attacks in Europe has declined drastically since October last. In addition, ISIS's ability to plan and execute attacks in Europe has been reduced.
There are two main reasons why this has not led to a lowering of the threat level. Firstly, the Netherlands is a target of several other international jihadist networks that may or may not be linked to ISIS or Al Qa'ida. These networks have the intent to plan attacks in Europe. Secondly, there is still a threat of violence emanating from Dutch jihadis. Some of these are known to be planning attacks, but so far none of their plans have led to a specific threat.
Jihadis in the Netherlands
Although numbers have stagnated, the size of the Dutch jihadist movement is a cause for concern. This group grew considerably in number in the period 2013-2016 and may be susceptible to a ‘revenge narrative’, which places the blame for the collapse of the ‘Caliphate’ on the West. This may be used to justify an attack.
The group is currently reassessing its priorities following the collapse of the Caliphate. The consequent lack of travel opportunities to jihadist areas has led to an increased emphasis on da'wa, i.e. spreading the jihadist message. This may give rise to a further increase in the number of jihadis in the Netherlands. Aside from jihad adherents, the Netherlands is home to several thousand jihad (mainly ISIS) sympathisers.
In spite of heavy losses, ISIS endures. The past few months have shown that ISIS has shifted the focus of its activities in both Iraq and Syria to ‘insurgency’, using guerrilla tactics such as hit-and-run attacks and kidnappings. The factors that caused the rise of ISIS are as prevalent as ever. This has led to a persistent breeding ground for unrest, which an organisation such as ISIS may seek to channel and exploit.
Of a more immediate concern to the threat in and to the West is the fact that a number of neighbouring countries will soon release dozens of jihadis convicted of terrorist offences. In the Netherlands, too, a number of convicted jihadis have now served their sentence.
The influence of salafism in the Netherlands has been growing for several years. Some adherents of salafism propagate and legitimise active intolerance and antidemocratic activities. As a consequence, these adherents of salafism may in time come to form a threat to national security. Furthermore, there are some within the salafist movement who legitimise terrorist violence, usually couched in religious terms.
Right-wing extremists have been gaining in confidence. Their focus remains on activities to combat the presumed islamisation of Dutch society, the arrival of asylum seekers and the perceived loss of the Dutch national identity. The threat of solitary actors or small groups committing acts of violence is a real one. By contrast, left-wing activists have carried out few extremist activities over the past few months.