Threat of attack on the Netherlands remains realistic

There is a realistic threat of an attack taking place in the Netherlands. There could be attacks in European countries in the near future. However there are no concrete signs of terrorists actually making preparations for an attack in the Netherlands. The threat level is therefore being maintained at 'substantial', level 4 in the adapted threat level system. This is laid down in the Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands of the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV).

The jihadist threat forms the main terrorist threat in Europe. The attacks carried out by ISIS in Paris in November 2015, Brussels in March 2016 and Istanbul in June 2016 clearly underline the nature and scope of the threat. It is now clear that ISIS has been working in a structured manner on the organisation, coordination and preparation of attacks in Europe since as far back as the end of 2013. Even following the arrest of people from the 'Paris' and 'Brussels' networks, it is likely that there are still various ISIS cells operating in Europe. As well as the threat posed by ISIS networks, the threat continues to take the form of large-scale attacks in Europe by al Qa'ida.

Although there are no concrete signs that terrorist networks are making preparations for attacks in the Netherlands, since the end of 2015 an increasing number of links with the Netherlands have been established in investigations into cross-border networks and attack cells. In Rotterdam, for example, arrests were made during an investigation into a French network that may have been planning attacks in France. A suspected attack cell that was closed down in Germany may also have had links with the Netherlands. Networks such as these are barely deterred in their activities by national borders.

Decrease in people leaving the country to join ISIS

Since the beginning of 2016 there has been a decrease in the monthly number of people leaving the country to join ISIS. The total number of people people leaving the country to join ISIS since 2012 is approximately 260. About 40 of them have since returned to the Netherlands and 42 have been killed. That leaves approximately 170 people originating from the Netherlands in Syria and Iraq, including women and minors. They are counted because these groups may also pose a threat. Since 1 May children from the age of 9 who have left with their parents to join ISIS have been counted in the figures because is has emerged that ISIS uses children from that age to commit acts of violence.

Increasing polarisation in European countries could create a breeding ground for radicalisation and extremism.  The Netherlands, too, could face violence by the extreme left and extreme right. There has recently been a robust debate on the racist element in the Netherlands that is accompanied by insulting and threatening behaviour. The arrival of refugees in combination with the fear of terrorism has resulted in the extreme right pursuing its activities increasingly openly. It is partly in response to this that there has been an increase in the sometimes violent opposition of the extreme left to the asylum policy and against the extreme right since mid-2015. There has also been an increase in the number of reported anti-Islam incidents.

Extra threat level

Based on the findings of the conference 'Ten years of Terrorist Threat Assessment in the Netherlands' the threat level system was adapted with effect from DTN42 to make it more future-proof. The threat levels are indicated by the numbers 1 (lowest level) to 5 (highest level). The seriousness of the current realistic threat remains unchanged. For that reason the level is being maintained at 'substantial', level 4 in the scale of 5 in the adapted system.