NCTV Threat Assessment: Attack in the Netherlands imaginable, with loners primary threat

There are currently individuals in the Netherlands who are radicalising or are already highly radicalised, and who may pose a threat. Although there are no indications that anyone in the Netherlands is preparing an attack, it remains conceivable that this could happen. Attacks in Europe are usually somewhat improvised in nature, perpetrated by loners and have few victims. The jihadist threat has by no means disappeared. Consequently, the threat level remains at 3 out of a possible 5. These are among the conclusions set out in the 53rd NCTV Threat Assessment issued by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV).

Polarised debate

Since the coronavirus outbreak, social discontent has continued to manifest itself both online and offline. Various groups and individuals have come together in rejecting the government or government policy. Ideological motives are not the main driving force, with this caused instead by feelings of injustice, intense unease or a conflicting view of reality. People who have long distrusted the government, science and traditional media may see their ideas confirmed in conspiracy theories and disinformation. Social media play a facilitating and mobilising role and fan the flames of discontent. In addition to the relatively wide-ranging and diverse activist forefront, there is a radical undercurrent of sometimes extremist behaviour, such as stalking journalists and politicians or intimidating the police.

Right-wing extremist threat of violence is conceivable

The coronavirus outbreak and the measures taken to control the virus have not led to an increased threat of right-wing extremism in the Netherlands. The known groups usually have little influence, are divided and mainly seek to connect with current themes. The developments online are very much another arena: it is on digital platforms in particular that individuals may radicalise through their interaction with like-minded people. A right-wing extremist attack remains conceivable, mainly because of online developments.

ISIS resurgent in Syria and Iraq

Compared to last year, ISIS is showing increased activity in Syria and Iraq. Since the fall of 'the caliphate' the threat of attack has diminished, but it has not yet disappeared. ISIS still intends to carry out attacks in European countries. To this end, the group is attempting to set up structures and networks in which sympathisers and supporters within Europe can play a role and come into contact with ISIS members in Syria. The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily curtailed the ability of jihadist travellers to return to Europe.

Jihadist movement in the Netherlands divided, but unpredictable

The direct threat of violence emanating from the Dutch jihadist movement seems to have diminished somewhat due to social and ideological fragmentation, dwindling motivation and the lack of powerful leaders and agitators. Although most activities are non-violent, the threat remains unpredictable. Some Dutch jihadists still intend to commit an attack in the Netherlands. Vigilance is still required with regard to some of the individuals in the movement. The coming years will be decisive for the jihadist movement. If it disintegrates even further, this could lead to a shrinking and less receptive environment for jihadists returning to society from captivity. This requires constant government pressure and the continued use of repressive measure.

Political Salafi agitators continue their activities

Agitators are attempting to increase their political clout by inciting and mobilising their supporters. This applies to individual cases, such as solidarity with the imam of the As-Soennah mosque in The Hague, or the dismissed director of the Cornelius Haga Lyceum secondary school, as well as to political issues, such as the report of the Dutch parliamentary committee of inquiry into undesirable influencing (POCOB: Parlementaire Onderzoekscommissie Ongewenste Beïnvloeding).