NCTV Threat Assessment: terrorist attack remains a possibility, no concrete indications

While there are currently no concrete indications of a terrorist attack in the Netherlands, such an attack remains conceivable. As a consequence, the threat level in the Netherlands remains at 3 out of 5 (‘considerable’). This is according to the 56th Terrorist Threat Assessment Netherlands (DTN) issued by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV). Jihadists still pose a key terrorist threat to our country, even though Dutch jihadists are hardly or not at all visible in the public domain. The country should also remain on the alert for right-wing extremism, given the threat posed by a number of young adherents. In addition, there are signs of further radicalisation among the radical undercurrent that opposes coronavirus restrictions. Within this movement, the threat of violence is posed mainly by individuals and small groups that are susceptible to inflammatory conspiracy theories (both on- and offline).

Jihadist movement in the Netherlands

Over the last two years, the jihadist movement in the Netherlands has largely turned inward. The past few years have seen an ever decreasing number of public manifestations of jihadist ideology, both physically and online. This is partially due to government intervention. Most jihadists in the Netherlands form part of physical networks. There is a small group that is being radicalised online, separately from these physical networks. They find inspiration in propaganda disseminated by ISIS, which is continuing to incite its supporters to commit lone-wolf attacks through official and unofficial media channels.

2022 is expected to see the release of several individuals, both in the Netherlands and in other Schengen zone countries, who have been convicted of terrorist offences, including a number of men and women convicted as jihadist travellers to Syria or Iraq. Although a significant part of these detainees are not expected to plan new terrorist offences after they have served their sentence, a minority is likely to continue to pose an elevated threat upon release.

The threat posed by the jihadist movement in Europe has been relatively stable for some time. The remaining threat in Europe is now mainly posed by lone actors and small groups or cells that are organisationally separate from ISIS, although still inspired by that movement (and its ideology). They mostly use relatively simple means of attack. In 2021, the number of jihadist attacks in Europe was significantly lower than in 2020.

Right-wing extremism

As highlighted in the previous Threat Assessment, the ideology within right-wing extremism that poses the main threat of violence in the Netherlands is accelerationalism. Several hundred Dutch adherents of accelerationalism have manifested themselves online. Some may pose a threat. Several online networks dedicated to this ideology show a fascination with weapons. There are concerns that individuals from this ideological background will want to join the armed forces or a shooting club in order to gain experience with the use of weapons. As a new development, the war in Ukraine may exert a pull on Dutch right-wing extremists, but so far they have shown little appetite for leaving for Ukraine to join right-wing extremist forces on either the Ukrainian or the Russian side.

Anti-government extremism

In the Netherlands, dissatisfaction with coronavirus restrictions was mainly expressed as activities by an activist upper layer and a radical undercurrent. Individuals within this radical undercurrent may gain encouragement from and feel that their radical behaviour is legitimised by the utterances of several actors in the public domain, including some who have promoted a radicalised COVID-19 narrative replete with conspiracy theories as part of the political discourse.

Virologists have been clear that there is an ongoing risk of new coronavirus variants developing, meaning that the radical undercurrent may take further action if any further restrictions are imposed. Moreover, agitators and conspiracy theorists will likely turn to other social themes to give voice to their opposition to the government.