Wednesday, 13 April 2016 - 15:35
Up to 20 former Dutch soldiers actively fighting in Syria, Iraq
Between 15 and 20 Dutch soldiers are actively fighting in Syria and Iraq, according to annual figures for 2015 from military intelligence service MIVD. These former soldiers - both professional soldiers and former conscripts - individually joined with Kurdish or Christian groups to fight in the Syrian civil war. A singe one joined terrorist organization Islamic State. When it comes to returnees from the fight in Syria and Iraq, the MIVD does not differentiate based on which side of the war you fought on. Fighters can suffer from war trauma or post traumatic stress disorder whether they fought with the Kurds or with the jihadists. Jitse Akse is arguably the most famous former Dutch soldier to fight in the Syrian civil war. Public outcry arose when he was arrested in January. On Facebook he wrote that he killed ISIS jihadists while fighting for the Kurdish militia YPG. Thousands of people signed a petition to show support for Akse. The MIVD also reports an increasing threat of cyber espionage aimed at Defense. The cyber spying process is becoming more aggressive and sophisticated and the intelligence service is dealing with "weekly" attempts of digital spying on Dutch interests. The main targets seem to be the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.