NCTV Threat Assessment: Attack in the Netherlands conceivable, no indications of preparations for an attack

At present, there are individuals in the Netherlands who are becoming radicalised and those who are already highly radicalised and pose, or could pose, a threat. There are no indications that individuals in the Netherlands are preparing an attack. However, it is conceivable that a loner actor could commit an attack. In recent years, attacks in Europe have been carried out by Islamist and jihadist lone actors, whose adherence to extremist ideology may be accompanied by psychosocial or psychiatric problems. The attacks in France and Austria in the autumn of 2020 are in line with the assessment of the threat that individuals may pose. For this reason the threat level has been maintained at 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5). These are some of the key conclusions of the 54th edition of the Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands, published by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV).

Dutch jihadist movement

The main terrorist threat in the Netherlands is still posed by the Dutch jihadist movement, which seems to have declined slightly in 2020 compared to previous years. In the Netherlands, the jihadist movement is both socially and ideologically fragmented and lacks charismatic leadership, hierarchy or a strong structure. The NCTV has noted that the pressure of repressive government measures has diminished the motivation to organise activities. The threat of violence continues to exist because attacks on the Netherlands are still regarded as a legitimate means by the movement. The threat could also escalate again as a result of the release of individuals from a Terrorist Detention Unit in the Netherlands, for example, returnees or external developments in the Netherlands and abroad. The next few years will be decisive for the jihadist movement: if it continues to disintegrate, this could lead to the movement shrinking and to a less receptive environment for jihadists returning to society from imprisonment.

Undermining message from some informal Salafist schools

In the Netherlands, Salafist centres regularly offer informal classes. The courses they offer contain teachings embodying exclusion and intolerance, hatred and aversion towards political or religious dissidents. The NCTV finds such classes concerning particularly when they are intended for children and other vulnerable groups. This intolerant, hostile message could potentially also undermine the 'vertical' dimension of the democratic rule of law (the relationship between citizens and government). Although Salafism represents only a small minority within the Muslim community, the courses offered by other Islamic movements lag behind. This means that Salafism in fact has a disproportionate influence on the Muslim community.

Right-wing extremism

Mostly young, troubled Dutch people may feel attracted to the growing international right-wing extremist internet world, which is echoed on a small-scale in Dutch in covert digital groups. It is conceivable that a far-right oriented lone perpetrator could carry out an attack in the Netherlands. In addition, there are individuals not only from right-wing extremist, but also anti-government circles who sometimes threaten to commit serious violence. At the same time, the NCTV has not yet seen indications of this materialising.

Unrest during the COVID-19 pandemic

The phenomenon analysis ‘The different faces of the protests against the coronavirus restrictions’ has also been published together with this Threat Assessment for the Netherlands. The analysis has found that within the protests against the coronavirus restrictions that have taken place in the past year relatively few actions have been identified as extremist to date. This does not alter the fact that there definitely are concerns. In the past 'COVID-19 year' in the Netherlands, interaction has been observed between an activist upper layer that demonstrates in public spaces and a radical undercurrent protesting against the coronavirus measures. This has created a context within which the threshold for extremist behaviour has been lowered. The ongoing coronavirus measures may serve as a trigger particularly for potentially violent lone actors (PDP) to commit an unlawful action. At present, disturbances of public order have primarily occurred. The phenomenon analysis was drawn up in coordination with the National Police and the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD).