Friday, March 31, 2006

The threat of terrorism in the Netherlands increasingly comes from home-grown Islamist militants who could strike at any time

Wendel Broere:

The Netherlands, shaken by the violent murder of a filmmaker in 2004 seen as critical of Islam, still faces a substantial threat despite the sentencing of nine young men to jail terms earlier this month for belonging to a group that threatened terrorist crimes, the service's chief said.

The Netherlands' security alert level has been at "substantial" since the bombing attacks in London on July 7 last year, the second highest in a four-stage warning system.

"The Dutch situation is different from the rest of Europe. The threat of home-grown Jihad (Holy War) is greater than in any other European country," secret service chief Sybrand van Hulst said at a news conference.

Another difference was that political leaders and opinion makers were the main targets, said Van Hulst, whose organisation is monitoring more than 150 people.

In a report sent to parliament on Thursday entitled "The Violent Jihad in The Netherlands - Current Trends of Islamist Terrorist Threat" the AIVD secret service said that the war in Iraq and the Dutch presence in Afghanistan acted as motivation for possible attacks and for recruitment.

The Dutch government will send up to 1,400 additional troops to Afghanistan for expanded NATO peacekeeping in June.

Van Hulst said the networks had a "a dynamic structure whose composition and size changes constantly and do not have fixed leaders." The AIVD doubted that al-Qaeda provided constant direction. "Al-Qaeda is more of a brand name and form of inspiration," the report said.

Their members -- mainly Dutch youngsters of Moroccan origin -- could be drawn from the street, neighbourhood, region or through the Internet instead of being recruited by veterans from Afghanistan, Bosnia or Chechnya, Van Hulst said.

Not all of the 10 to 20 networks investigated by the AIVD in the Netherlands were dangerous, but it warned that some of them would seek to approach possible leaders who had experience in Pakistan, Iraq or Afghanistan.

"It is alarming that part of the younger generation of Muslims in our country do not only appear to be susceptible to radicalisation, but inside certain youth groups violent jihad is seen as positive and as cool," the report said.

Women were also taking an increasingly important role and the AIVD expected this development to spread to other countries.

The AIVD said that the Internet acted as a "virtual training camp" giving access to weapons knowledge, inspiration and leading to virtual networks.

"People are creating their personal Koran based on dubious interpretations of historical texts they take out of context to glorify violence," Van Hulst said.

Several Dutch politicians have been under heavy guard since the November 2004 murder of outspoken filmmaker Theo van Gogh due to death threats for their criticism of radical Islam.

The Netherlands has also toughened laws to enable militants to be convicted for planning attacks.

Terrorism - Dutch intelligence service reports

End of the multicultural myth

Europe's angry young Muslims 2

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