AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands will have to get used to living with the threat of terrorism for years to come as Muslim extremists are very difficult to combat, the head of the Dutch AIVD secret service has warned.
While acknowledging some short-term successes against Muslim terror groups, AIVD boss Sybrand van Hulst said on Thursday the groups are becoming more autonomous and regional, making them harder to detect and dismantle.
He warned terror groups were increasingly focusing on soft targets – both people and objects that are easy to get access to.
Van Hulst made his comments as the AIVD published its annual report for 2003.
Repeating what it said last year, the AIVD claimed about 150 people in the Netherlands had links to terrorist networks. He said the personalities were constantly changing.
The AIVD is trying to identify the people involved by staking out mosques, but Van Hulst emphasised that only a few imams, or Muslim religious leaders, were guilty of preaching a “political and radical” message, NOS news reported.
But he did say that there was another, larger group of imams who adhered to old-style Islamic laws and stood aloof from the values of Western society in their teachings. Their behaviour could help to breed extremism among their congregations, the AIVD warned.
The report warned that young Muslims, some as young as 16 and 17, were being approached and recruited for Jihad, or holy war.
Last year two major trials of Muslims accused of being part of terrorist networks in the Netherlands ended in the suspects being acquitted.