Intelligence experts believe that ISIS has between 60 and 80 terrorists planted in Europe poised to carry out attacks.
Dutch counterterrorism coordinator Dick Schoof said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday that would-be terrorists are heeding messages from the terrorist group ‘asking them not to come to Syria and Iraq, but to prepare attacks in Europe.’
Schoof said that over the last six months the number of ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ has not grown, but the fact that they’re not traveling ‘does not mean that the potential threat of those who would have traveled is diminished.’
Schoof said military operations to oust the ISIS from its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq are scattering the terrorist group’s terrorists and supporters.
This will probably lead to a gradual increase of refugees that will pose a danger to the national security of the Netherlands and other European countries, he said.
Schoof said even though the Netherlands hasn’t been hit by a major attack by Muslim terrorists such as those in Belgium and France, ‘the chance of attack in the Netherlands is real.’
‘We have seen 294 Muslim terrorists go overseas in Iraq and Syria and there are still 190 over there,’ he said. ‘And what happened in France and Brussels and Germany could happen to us’ he said.
There are probably between 4,000 and 5,000 European ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ in Iraq and Syria, Schoof added.
While the number from the Netherlands, a nation of 17 million people, may seem low, he said, ‘whether there’s 190 or 350, I think the number is big enough to worry.’
Schoof, who was in New York to speak at a roundtable on ‘returning foreign terrorist fighters,’ said the Netherlands’ program to deal with the threat balances ‘repression and prevention’ and relies on strong cooperation between local and national authorities.
Schoof stressed that the Netherlands does not tolerate ‘anti-democratic behavior.’
‘We try to prevent hate preachers coming in by not giving them a visa,’ he said.
Last week, Schoof said, the Federation of Mosques, without being prompted, sent a letter to all mosques in the country saying ‘the mosques themselves must realise that hate speech should not be accepted in the mosques.’
‘Those are important signals that you can build on in your trust relationships,’ he said.