Netherlands: Radical Islamist terrorist threat increasing

According to the AIVD, the Dutch secret service, the terrorist threat from radical Islamic quarters is increasing, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world. In its annual report for 2007 the AIVD also confirms what other intelligence sources have said previously: al-Qaeda is gaining influence after being effectively out of action for years.

Each year the secret service presents a central theme in its annual report. This year it's international cooperation and the exchange of information between intelligence services. The AIVD explains that such cooperation might be necessary but it isn't without its complications. The identities of intelligence sources abroad naturally have to be protected as closely as possible, and the AIVD doesn't allow partner services simply to pass on information as they please.

The threat in the Netherlands

For the public, however, there is a much more interesting question: what is the level of terrorist threat in the Netherlands? Gerard Bouman, the new head of the AIVD, gave a measured response.

"We observe that the threat has increased. As to the question of whether it is still safe in the Netherlands, I would say I still think the Netherlands is still safe. Having said that, I don't mean we aren't constantly on the alert for possible developments that could possibly lead to an attack. There has been both an increase in the actual threat and also an increase in the conceivable threat, and that is more on an analytical basis."

Gerard Bouwman, new head of the AIVDThe AIVD says non-violent radical tendencies within Islam are also gaining ground in the Netherlands, in particular Salafism. For the first time the service says this radically conservative school of Sunni Islamic thought is also appealing to young people of Turkish descent, while in the past it only attracted those with a Moroccan background. According to the AIVD, Salafism is being preached in or around four mosques spread across the country, and 15 to 20 radical clerics are actively trying to win new followers.

Jihadists more active

The AIVD describes the truly violent sector as "jihadist networks". In the Netherlands, "after a period of relative calm", these have become rather more active again, although the report says they don't represent any specific threat. This would seem to contradict the "increased threat" which AIVD head Gerard Bouman referred to during the presentation of the report.

Partly on the basis of AIVD information, the terrorist threat level was recently raised from "limited" to "substantial". This was due both to increased activity on the part of jihadist networks elsewhere in Europe (including foiled attacks) and the commotion surrounding the film Fitna made by Dutch MP Geert Wilders. The head of the AIVD praised the Dutch Muslim community for what he described as its "restrained reaction" to the film.

Source: Radio Netherlands (English)

See also: Netherlands: Summary of AIVD report on neo-radicalism, Netherlands: Terror report Netherlands: 10-20 known terror groups

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