Some 30 jihadists heading back to Netherlands: intelligence service

Some 30 Dutch jihadists who went to join terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq are "on their way back to the Netherlands", according to Rob Bertholee, director of general intelligence and security service AIVD, AD reports.

These suspected jihadists may be in a refugee camp somewhere in the Syria and Iraq region, in a prison, or actually on their way back, he said according to the newspaper. The AIVD has been warning of the slow return of Dutch rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war for some time, but this is the first time the service puts a number to it. 

Some 50 Dutch already returned from Syria or Iraq, but the majority of them already returned years ago, mostly because they regretted their decision to go in the first place. Most of the 30 currently working their way back, only started their journey after ISIS and the other terrorist organizations began to suffer heavy losses. "There is a serious threat from returnees because they have often been in the area a long time and probably participated in serious acts of violence or witnessed it", the AIVD said. This includes men, women and even children. 

At least four Dutch women that belonged to ISIS are currently staying in refugee camps in Kurdish Syria with their young children, according to AD. At least three suspected Dutch jihadists are in custody in Turkey. And four others were arrested in Turkey early this year and put on a plane to the Netherlands, where they were immediately arrested to await their trial. 

According to Bertholee, apart from the 30 Dutch working their way back to the Netherlands, there are still around 160 Dutch aged nine or older in the conflict zone. 

"ISIS is still alive", the AIVD chief said on Tuesday. "Geographically they may have lost a lot of ground, ideologically they are still alive and kicking. We see that every day", he said, referring to jihadist propaganda on the internet. "ISIS wants to show in its propaganda that it can take revenge on the international coalition, to which the Netherlands belongs. Supporters in Europe who are considering an attack feel more than ever the pressure from Syria and Iraq to take action in their own country."