The conflict in Syria has become a catalyst for radical Muslims in the Netherlands, with messages becoming more explicit and widespread, the Dutch security service AIVD said on Monday.
Radical texts spoken by young preachers and social media are leading to jihadist propaganda being spread more quickly, leading to ‘further radicalisation on a wider scale,’ the AIVD said in a new report.
The Dutch authorities estimate 130 Dutch citizens, including 20 girls and young women, have so far left to fight in Syria’s civil war and around 80 are there at present.
Some 30 have returned to the Netherlands and 14 have been killed. Last week, police stopped a 15-year-old girl from travelling to Syria via Germany after a tip-off.
Not a hype
The growth in radicalism is not a hype and poses a risk to the Netherlands, AIVD head Rob Bertholee is quoted as saying.
Dick Schoof, head of the Dutch counter terrorism service said earlier on Monday that the threat risk in the Netherlands remains ‘substantial’ and repeated earlier warnings about the risk posed by people returning from Syria.
Even if the conflict in Syria is solved, the threat will remain, Schoof said. ‘This is not something that will just blow over.’ In Europe as a whole, some 3,000 people have gone to fight with radical groups. This means the entire continent is at risk, he said.
In particular, the role of social media and internet in spreading radical messages requires tackling, he said. He urged internet providers which host websites that spread hatred to take action.
Last week, an 18-year-old suspected recruiter was arrested and radical website De Ware Religie (the true religion) was taken off the air.
In an interview with the NRC, Schoof said several thousand Muslims in the Netherlands are known to sympathise with the radicial ISIS movement and their number is growing.
For too long there has been a romantic image about youngsters joining the struggle in Syria, he said. ‘They are not going to proffer help. That is nonsense,’ he said.
He stopped short of criticising the government, the NRC said.
Meanwhile, justice minister Ivo Opstelten said in a written briefing to parliament that the Netherlands will take ‘very wide-ranging’ measures to combat the terrorist threat posed by returnees from Syria and other conflict zones.
The Netherlands is involved in a ‘very intensive’ exchange of information at a national and international level, in particular about travel movements and contacts between known extremists.
‘Every possible measure’ will be used to prevent people travelling to conflict zones, including freezing their assets, stopping benefits and withdrawing passports, he said.