Three Dutch jihadist regions identified: report

According to Trouw, jihadism in The Netherlands is concentrated in mostly three regions. Per region, there are dozens of jihadists planning to travel to Syria or Iraq, or who were apprehended by the authorities prior to their departure, and those who are in the war zone already or who have returned from there. 

Trouw writes, on the basis of their own research, that the highest concentration of jihadists is found in the region of Southwest Netherlands, in The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Delft, Zoetermeer and Gouda. Another network exists in Arnhem and Nijmegen. In the middle of the country there are jihadists in Utrecht, Almere, Hilversum, Zeist and Huizen.

Huizen is the place where four people were arrested on suspicion of their desire to travel to Syria and Iraq with their children to join IS. Three of these were released. Authorities had sufficient evidence to keep only one of the arrestees in detention for another 14 days.

Edwin Bakker, professor of (counter-)terrorism at the University of Leiden explains that there is currently a 'jihad belt' being forged through the middle of the country, made up of strong idealistic ties cemented through friendships, family ties and marriages. The three clusters also have ties to each other. Sometimes, a link is made by one person who has contact with other jihadist networks. These networks maintain contact through the internet and social media.

Contrary to earlier existence of jihadist groups in The Netherlands, the central nucleus are no longer central salafist mosques tying all groups together. Ten years ago, the Hofstad group operated through four mosques in Amsterdam, The Hague, Tilburg and Eindhoven, which police and the Ministry of Justice could easily keep surveillance on.

The Hofstad group was also far more reclusive and secretive about their activities than the groups of today. Social media and the wider internet forms a public platform for leaders nowadays, such as leading figure Azeddine C., aka Abou Moussa, who was arrested last week.

Three of the four people arrested last week on suspicions of jihadist intentions were released yesterday. Mayor Hertog of Huizen is unclear what they will do now, whether they will go home or to family. His first priority is to assure the residents of Huizen that they are safe and to reinstate calm there.

The district attorney will announce today whether the Public Prosecution Authority will appeal the decision of the judge to release these suspects.