Dutch jihad fighters are ethnically diverse; 73 pct. are men

A new database established in the Netherlands contains profiles on 207 suspected Dutch jihadists who traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight in the civil war. The figures show that the Dutch jihadists come from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, three quarters of them are male and they are mostly young - the average age is 23 years, the Volkskrant reports. 

The biggest proportion of Dutch jihadists, 45.9 percent are Dutch-Moroccan. 17.3 percent are Dutch and 10 percent are Dutch-Turks. The jihadists also include many Dutch-Iraqis (7.2 percent), Dutch-Egyptians and Dutch-Somalis, 3.6 percent each. Most of the jihadists from the Netherlands are young men. 152 of the names in the database are men. And the average age is 23 years. 

The database also revealed that relatively many of the Dutch jihadists converted to Islam - 17 percent. That percentage is seven times as high as the proportion converts in the Netherlands' Muslim community as a whole. 

The database was established by Reinier Bergema, researcher at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies. He used public sources like social media, judicial and government documentation and interviews with people directly involved - family members, teachers, friends, former extremist - to profile most of the Dutch who went to be foreign rebel fighters in Syria or Iraq since 2012. According to the National Coordinator of Counterterrorism and Security, a total of 280 Dutch jihadists traveled to Syria and Iraq between 2012 and June 2017. 

According to the Volkskrant, profiles on foreign rebel fighters in Syria are increasingly relevant given the danger posed by military trained jihadists returning to their home countries, something the Coordinator warned about repeatedly. About 50 jihadists already returned to the Netherlands. According to the Coordinator, they are being watched by intelligence agency AIVD and none of them have taken any steps to commit violence. 

As more hardened fighters are  seeking to return home now that the ISIS caliphate is increasingly collapsing, the risk posed by returnees is rising. In April the Coordinator warned that even returning children may have orders to commit an attack.