The Dutch government on Wednesday raised the terror threat level in the Netherlands from "limited" to "substantial" — citing growing radicalization of Dutch youth and other potential blow-back from the increasingly bloody conflict in Syria.
"The chance of an attack in the Netherlands or against Dutch interests abroad has risen," according to a statement from the Dutch Justice Department's national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, H. "Dick" W.M. Schoof.
"Two major reasons for this are the increase in the number of jihadists traveling to Syria and signs of radicalization among young people in the Netherlands," Mr. Schoof said. He noted that "[c]lose to a hundred individuals have recently left the Netherlands for various countries in Africa and the Middle East, especially Syria," to join groups of armed extremists there.
"These jihadist travelers can return to the Netherlands highly radicalized, traumatized and with a strong desire to commit violence, thus posing a significant threat to this country," the statement added.
In Europe as a whole, there are several hundred such would-be violent jihadists, the statement added, and the danger was compounded by the new wave of democratization in the Arab world, which had left security agencies there unable or unwilling to control extremist groups.
"It is easy for jihadist networks to establish themselves there [in the post-Arab Spring Middle East and North Africa]. Some would like to attack Western targets, including in Europe," the statement concluded.
The Netherlands has not suffered a major terrorist attack since the 1970s and has never experienced one from Islamic extremists. But in 2004, a Dutch Muslim extremist of Moroccan origin murdered the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who made controversial films critical of multiculturalism and of Islam, in Amsterdam.
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