Local jihadist networks in the Netherlands

Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, academics and counterterrorism experts have gained a much improved understanding of jihadist terrorism.

One important fact they have come to realise is that the phenomenon does not exist in isolation. It is for this reason that the Dutch government has chosen to adopt a broad approach in its fight against terrorism – one which regards it as the culmination of a process that begins with radicalisation. From this perspective, combating terrorism is not purely a repressive activity; it must also counter radicalisation and increase society’s resilience to it.

A combination of two factors can result in the origin and scale of jihadism changing over time. First, the phenomenon is influenced by its environment; to be successful, at the very least it needs a broadly sympathetic milieu around it. Effective government action can undermine that base of support and hence diminish the power and endurance of jihadist networks. Secondly, the movement has its own dynamic, which can cause both its ends and its means to evolve.

In the Netherlands, as elsewhere, the nature of jihadist networks is subject to change. This report describes and explains the developments the local networks went through in this country over the past few years, as well as detailing the general nature of the threat they currently pose. In so far as it contains new information, this document is a partial update of the 2006 AIVD publication, Violent Jihad in the Netherlands – current trends in the Islamist terrorist threat.

The threat to the Netherlands and to Dutch interests comes from within our borders as well as beyond them. The main conclusion of this report is that the internal danger, emanating from local networks inside the country, has diminished since 2006. As a consequence, the relative significance of the external threat from transnational networks has increased. To this can be added the observation that local jihadists in this country are currently directing most of their attention towards the struggle elsewhere in the world. That makes developments in those countries important as regards the nature of the threat to the Dutch nation and its interests. And there are numerous ways in which that could manifest itself. For example, jihadists based in this country might target Dutch interests somewhere else. Another possibility is that trained or battle-hardened jihadists could return to this country either to carry out attacks here or to facilitate jihad in other places. For these reasons, the AIVD fully expects the threat from jihadist terrorism to remain firmly at the top of the national and international security agenda for the foreseeable future.

G. L. Bouman

Director, General Intelligence and Security Service