News / Europe

Spy Service Warns Dutch Islamist Radicals Becoming Elusive 'Swarm'

FILE - Jihadi-led rebel fighters in Syria kill and abduct civilians during an offensive against pro-regime villages, committing a war crime, an international human rights group, Oct. 11, 2013.
FILE - Jihadi-led rebel fighters in Syria kill and abduct civilians during an offensive against pro-regime villages, committing a war crime, an international human rights group, Oct. 11, 2013.
Reuters

Radical Islamist groups in the Netherlands have become a decentralized and elusive “swarm” that may broaden their focus from the conflict in Syria to the wider Middle East, the Dutch intelligence service warned on Monday.

Its report reflects widespread concern in Europe at the threat posed by European citizens - mainly from Islamic immigrant milieus - leaving to fight in Middle East conflicts, then returning battle-hardened and posing security threats.

Dutch authorities estimate that 120 Dutch citizens have  fought in Syria's civil war, with 14 having died in combat, and that there are hundreds of jihadi militants in the country eyeing missions abroad, with thousands more sympathizers.

The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Agency (AIVD) said in its latest assessment of the threat posed by underground jihadi groups that they were stronger and more self-confident.

It said such militants continued to pose a “substantial” threat to the Netherlands, one notch below the highest alert.

Most of the potential fighters were of Moroccan background although some were native Dutch converts to Islam.

The agency said the phenomenon was becoming ever harder to track as social media made it possible for increasingly “professionalized” radical movements to coordinate themselves without the need for a centralized authority.

“The movement has taken on the character of a swarm,” the agency said. “There is a less hierarchical structure than at the turn of the millennium, which makes it more flexible, effective and less vulnerable to 'attack' from outside.”

European governments have struggled to stop their nationals, some just teenagers, from traveling to Syria where the conflict, which began as peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad and evolved into an armed rebellion is now in its fourth year. More than 160,000 people have been killed.

Crackdown on would-be jihadis

An 18-year-old man was recently arrested in The Hague on suspicion of recruiting people to take part in the Syrian conflict, the Dutch anti-terrorism coordinator said on Monday.

Dutch authorities have blocked student grants and welfare payments to more than 30 people suspected of preparing to join wars abroad, and frozen the assets of several others.

Other measures under review include stripping suspected militants of their Dutch nationality. A draft law has been submitted for review to the country's highest legal advisory body, Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten told parliament on Monday.

“It is unacceptable for Dutch citizens to take part in the jihadist movement and in violent jihad, regardless of where it takes place,” he said in a letter. “All possible means will be used to disrupt travel plans, to reduce the risk posed by those returning and to prevent recruiting of new supporters.”

Prosperous and with an economy that recovered and grew fast after World War II, the Netherlands opened its doors to immigration from Morocco and Turkey in the 1960s, and today some 5 percent of the population is of Islamic heritage.

But as growth has slowed and jobs become scarcer in recent years, radical Islam has gained currency in some immigrant communities, raising the concern of state authorities.

The Dutch intelligence service warned that radicals in the Netherlands might turn their attention towards fighting in other current or potential Middle East conflict zones.

“For now, Dutch jihadis are heavily focused on Syria, but that could change,” the AIVD report said. “It could involve existing conflict zones likes Yemen and Iraq, but even potential new zones like Egypt - including Sinai, or Libya.”

Would-be fighters in Middle East conflicts are growing more skilled at evading the attention of authorities, buying return tickets to the region and posing as tourists, it said.

“News from conflict zones in Syria is spread rapidly via chat, Facebook and email within hours or even in real time within a jihadi inner circle in the Netherlands,” said the report. It added that the number of jihadist publications in Dutch had increased sharply over the past two years.

The French citizen suspected of shooting dead four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May spent time fighting in Syria. The Dutch report said some 3,000 European had gone to Syria to fight alongside Islamist rebels.

The Brussels attack “illustrates that the threat posed by returning jihadist fighters is Europe-wide,” Opstelten wrote. “That means that there is a risk posed by all returning Syria fighters, also to the Netherlands.”  

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs