Stopping Dutch jihadists a "top priority": Minister
Minister Frans Timmermans of Foreign Affairs said that The Netherlands is doing everything it can to protect citizens from the growing threat of Dutch Jihadis. In the television program WNL Op Zondag, the Minister said that the Cabinet is making the prevention of local attacks a "top priority."
"I can really shove aside all the stories as if we would be naive and wouldn't do anything", the Minister said in reaction to criticism that the Dutch government is not doing enough to counter the threat of terrorism.
PVV-leader Geert Wilders has said that the Cabinet is sleeping when it comes to counter-radicalization in The Netherlands. He says that there is a growing group of Muslim extremists, and it's just a matter of time before there is an attack in the country. He urges that more money be sent to intelligence service AIVD to follow the Jihadis properly.
Minister Timmermans, who cannot divulge the details of any measures taken against this issue, has said that everything is being done to ensure the safety of Dutch citizens against "this manifest threat."
Last week, the Minister said that "many" Dutch Syria fighters have aligned themselves with the now notorious violent rebel group ISIS, active in Syria and Iraq. According to AIVD, around 130 jihad fighters from The Netherlands have traveled to Iraq and Syria. Of these, around 30 have returned. They say that these returned fighters could be a danger to society.
Minister Timmermans said that the government's job is to keep surveillance on these returned fighters, and make sure that they don't put society at risk.
Currently, the government is saving millions in cuts to the budget of the AIVD. It is unclear to what extent this new threat of radicalized Dutch citizens will be attainable with the strained budget. "If there are threats that we had not foresee, and these lead to changes in policy, then that will lead to a change in policy", the Minister did say.
Further, Timmermans criticized president of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki, who he says should have been able to deal with the situation in Iraq. The minister says that it is a "disgrace" how Iraq has been led in the last years, and how the army has been directed. "The army is big and strong enough to be able to take on this threat. But because of mismanagement and by looking for confrontation with the minorities in Iraq, it didn't work for al-Maliki."