Who’s more dangerous: Jihadists who will return or those staying at home?
THE HAGUE - While European intelligence focuses on the dangers of Islamist fighters returning from Iraq or Syria, the Netherlands warned Wednesday of the growing threat from radicalised Muslims who have never left home.
These "stay-at-home" militants are sometimes "frustrated after failing to join the fight" in the Middle East," the Dutch security service AIVD said in its annual report.
They could also never have had the intention of going to the battlefield but "get radicalised at home by the propaganda of groups such as Islamic State," which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria, it said.
Around 180 Dutch nationals have travelled to join Islamic State or other Islamist groups, according to the latest figures.
Around 20 have been killed in fighting, and 35 have returned to the Netherlands.
The report said there were "several hundred" jihadists in the Netherlands at the moment, and "thousands" of sympathisers.
The would-be jihadists pose a threat to the Netherlands as they could act on calls by Islamic State leaders to carry out domestic attacks in response to air strikes on areas under their control.
"They feel close to a group without belonging to it and could end up committing violent crimes," the AIVD said, noting that their varied profiles make them difficult to identify: they could be highly educated or have left school early, religious or adventurous, Moroccan, Turkish, Caribbean or Dutch.
An increasing number of women are also joining Islamist groups, around a quarter of the total, according to the AIVD, while around 30 children with a Dutch parent currently live in Islamist-controlled territory, half of whom were born there.
Those returning to the Netherlands are not necessarily a threat as many of them have been disappointed by their first-hand experiences of jihad.
"The romantic image of a glorious fight against the infidel can be very different to the reality on the ground," the AIVD said.
"They might find themselves doing the cleaning or washing up instead."