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ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 30 NOVEMBER: Demonstrators and police are seen during a pro-Palestine protest near Ahoy Rotterdam, on 30 November 2023 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Joris Verwijst/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

The Netherlands' Counterterrorism Agency Says There's a "Substantial" Chance of Terrorist Attack

The Netherlands’ counterterrorism agency raised the nation’s threat level to “substantial” on 12 December, the first time it has done so since 2019.

According to Reuters, the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) raised the threat level to 4—which signifies a real chance of a terrorist attack—over concerns about the conflict between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel.

In a press release about the raised threat level, the NCTV said that extremist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were using the war to encourage sympathizers to attack Western nations and their people. It said that the war had “a polarizing effect on parts of society. It is conceivable that the resulting tensions will lead to violence against Jewish or Muslim institutions.”

Al Qaeda and ISIS have also demanded retaliation for desecrations of the Koran in European nations, using online propaganda campaigns and communications, according to the NCTV. These events, it added, have mobilized Dutch jihadists and other radicalized Islamists. “Lone attackers are often more difficult to recognize than groups,” the release said.

Besides attacks linked to jihadist movements, the agency also noted that it was monitoring some potential concerns stemming from anti-institutional efforts and a sovereign citizens group.

The country’s threat level was previously set to 3, or “significant,” which indicates that a terrorist attack is “conceivable,” according to the NCTV. The highest level is 5, or “critical,” which is when the agency determines that an attack is imminent.

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With the heightened threat, “authorities will likely implement increased security measures around sensitive sites and potential targets, including government offices, police headquarters, airports, and transport hubs,” according to Crisis24, a security risk and crisis management consulting firm.

Earlier in December, Ylva Johansson, home affairs commissioner for the European Union, cautioned that European nations face a “huge risk of terrorist attacks” during the Christmas holiday season due to the conflict. “Johansson said that she drew the threat conclusion herself based on the high security levels in some of the 27 EU member countries and an increase in reports of antisemitic incidents, as well as more hate speech and extremist content online,” the Associated Press reported.

Attacks linked to extremist ideologies have already occurred in other EU nations since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, including in France and Belgium. On 2 December, a German-Filipino tourist was stabbed and killed in a knife attack near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the attacker wounded two other people. In October, Belgian authorities shot and killed a Tunisian man who was suspected of using a large firearm to kill two Swedish soccer fans and wound a third.