THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch counterterrorism coordinator warned Monday that if the Islamic State group's self-declared caliphate collapses it could trigger an increase in jihadi fighters returning home and compound the threat of an extremist attack in the Netherlands.
The warning came in the latest Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands, which left the threat level in the country unchanged at level four on a five-step scale. Level four means that there is a real chance of an attack, but there are "no specific indications that an attack is being prepared."
The Netherlands, a nation of 17 million people, hasn't been hit by a major attack by Islamic extremists such as those in Belgium and France. But the Dutch government warned that both IS and al-Qaida have a presence here.
The report warned that a military defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq would likely increase the number of Dutch jihadi fighters returning home.
"An increasing number of returnees will probably strengthen the domestic jihadi movement in the Netherlands and thus magnify the threat it poses," according to the report.
Dutch intelligence agencies believe that about 270 Dutch fighters have joined jihad forces in Syria and Iraq since 2012, and 44 of them have been killed there.
The report also warned of the threat posed by increased tensions in Dutch society in the countdown to elections next year.
"It is conceivable that the level of polarization in the Netherlands could increase between now and the parliamentary elections in March 2017," the report said. "During campaign season, there is an increased risk that a lone individual could commit a violent act."