Netherlands counts 500 jihadists, thousands of sympathizers: intelligence service

The Netherlands has approximately 500 jihadists and several thousand sympathizers of jihadist ideology, general intelligence service AIVD said in a report published on Monday. "They pose a potential threat. The threshold for committing an attack in the name of Islamic State or Al Qaeda seems to have decreased", the AIVD said, reports.

Illustrative of this threat is the September arrests of seven men suspected of planning an attack at an event in the Netherlands, the AIVD said. Which event they were targeting, was not revealed. The AIVD had been keeping an eye on the men for some time. They are suspected of preparing a terrorist attack in the Netherlands and participating in a terrorist organization. They are still in custody. 

"The attraction of jihadist ideology remains and is therefore a threat for the longer term", the AIVD said. The threat of attacks is still unabated, despite ISIS losing its caliphate in Syria. "The organization has transformed itself into an underground movement that is preparing for a resurrection to re-establish the dream of the caliphate." The threat against the West, and therefore also the Netherlands, seems to have become a structural part of European society, according to the the AIVD. 

A total of 310 people traveled from the Netherlands to be foreign rebel fighters in the Syrian Civil War. Around 135 Dutch are still there. About 35 are in refugee camps or in custody in the region of Syria and Iraq. 85 people died, and around 55 returned to the Netherlands. Several dozen Dutch jihadists tried to reach the conflict zone, but were prevented. "Some of them have not abandoned the ideals since then and are still part of the jihadist movement in the Netherlands", the AIVD said.