Terrorism threat level reduced but "conceivable"; Attacks against anti-racism activists condemned
A report by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) has revised the country's threat level assessment down to level 3 from level 4. The threat of a terrorist attack in the Netherlands is assessed on a five-point scale, with threat level 5 being the most severe and imminent.
"Threat level 3 means that an attack in the Netherlands is still conceivable," the Ministry of Justice and Security said in a statement. The NCTV falls under the umbrella of that ministry. "There is a jihadist movement in the Netherlands that includes people who pose a terrorist threat. This was also apparent from the arrest on November 25 of two men from Zoetermeer who are suspected of preparing a terrorist attack." The ministry said it was also concerned about the prospect of an attack prepared abroad by either ISIS or al Qaeda.
The NCTV remained highly concerned about the threat of domestic terrorism carried out by right-wing extremists. The report released on Monday noted that the anti-racism organization Kick Out Zwarte Piet held a stance against the use of blackface which led to them becoming targets for extremists and criminals.
The report said that "the violence is a clear illustration of the hatred of a group of mainly white Dutch people against opponents of the 'traditional' Sinterklaas party." It referenced an attempted arson against a Kick Out Zwarte Piet meeting in Den Haag earlier this year.
A separate report produced by the NCTV in 2017 was accused of suggesting that the anti-racism activists Kick Out Zwarte Piet were potentially responsible for violence themselves as a "relatively new extreme left anti-racist action group." The NCTV later said it did not intend to imply the KOZP activists were extremists, just that the issue was polarizing to Dutch society.
"Right-wing extremist groups are hardly organized, but it is possible that a loner radicalises and develops a right-wing extremist-inspired act of violence," the ministry said. "Copy-cat behavior is a risk: the attack in Christchurch (March 2019) inspired others to attack, such as the one in El Paso."
In previous years, the NCTV had also cited the attack on an American nightclub for gay men in Orlando, Florida. The 2016 mass shooting left dozens dead, and dozens more injured.
The NCTV also said it was concerned about left-wing extremism, and people's ability to unite behind "certain themes, such as climate." The organization said it was concerned about protestors with a "sense of political and social urgency" who are willing to break the law of the land using civil disobedience. The NCTV again mentioned Extinction Rebellion, this time for its blockades of major roadways in Amsterdam in October.
The blocking of highways and roadways, and other forms of disobedience by the protesting farmers and the construction workers, angered by the government policy regarding climate change and emissions, also were briefly mentioned in the report. Other polarizing topics in the Netherlands were also of interest to the NCTV, like the so-called Burqa Ban.
Level 5 was only announced one time in the Netherlands, in the immediate hours following a mass shooting at a tram stop in Utrecht this past March. Three people died during the assault, and a fourth later died from his injuries. Six others were wounded. Gökmen T., the suspect in the case who previously confessed, was set to stand trial on accusations that he wanted to instill fear and terror in as many people as possible. After his arrest, the threat level was reduced.
The threat level in the Netherlands was first raised above level 2 in March of 2013, when a four-point scale was still in use. "This was at the time of the civil war in Syria, which led to the emergence of ISIS and a huge increase in the number of jihadist travelers from all over Europe," the ministry said.
The threat level was again raised to level 4, and the scale was simultaneously modified to the current five-point system, in July 2016. This was preceded by two major terrorist attacks in France and in Brussels.
The coordinated suicide bombings and mass shootings in Paris and Saint-Denis, France, took place the previous November, where 131 people were killed and 413 were injured at six separate location. Seven of the nine known participants also died that day.
There were three coordinated suicide bombings in Brussels on March 22, 2016 that left 32 people killed and 340 injured. Three attackers died that day. It included two bomb blasts at the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, and the bombing of the Maalbeek metro station in the Brussels city center.