Dutch intelligence: Europe foiled 10 jihadist attacks in 2023, Gaza war among triggers

‘The terrorist threat is serious at this moment,’ agency head says

Illustrative photo of Belgian Police patrolling the Grand Place in central Brussels on October 17, 2023, following the shooting of two Swedish soccer fans by a suspected Tunisian extremist. (AP/Martin Meissner)
Illustrative photo of Belgian Police patrolling the Grand Place in central Brussels on October 17, 2023, following the shooting of two Swedish soccer fans by a suspected Tunisian extremist. (AP/Martin Meissner)

AMSTERDAM — Western intelligence prevented at least 10 jihadist attacks across Europe last year, and the current Israel-Hamas war has increased the threat of further attacks, Dutch intelligence agency AIVD said on Tuesday.

The foiled attacks included a plan to stab people at random and preparations for an assault on specific buildings and events, the AIVD said in its annual report, without elaborating.

“There were two mobilizing issues: The destruction of Qurans in the Netherlands and other European countries and the conflict between Israel and Hamas,” the Dutch agency said.

“The terrorist threat is serious at this moment,” the agency’s director-general, Erik Akerboom, said.

Akerboom said he is particularly concerned about big events, noting that the agency is working closely with French authorities to prevent incidents during the Paris Olympics this summer.

Earlier this month, four teenagers were arrested in Germany for suspected planning of Islamist terror attacks on churches and synagogues.

Director-General Erik Akerboom of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, AIVD, speaks during a press conference in Zoetermeer, Netherlands on April 23, 2024. (AP/Peter Dejong)

Sweden raised its terror alert in August to the second-highest level, after Quran burnings and other acts in the country targeting the holy book of Islam outraged Muslims and triggered threats from jihadists.

In October, two Swedish soccer fans were shot dead in Brussels, allegedly by a man who identified himself as a member of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Also in October, a 20-year-old man fatally stabbed a teacher and gravely wounded two other people in an attack at a school in the northern French city of Arras, in what French President Emmanuel Macron condemned as “barbaric Islamic terrorism.”

A memorial situated at the site of a shooting in Brussels where two Swedish people were killed, October 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The war between Israel and Hamas began with the shock Hamas assault on October 7, when thousands of terrorists invaded southern Israel, killing nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages.

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas and end the terror group’s rule of Gaza, launching an aerial assault and ground offensive to achieve its goals and return the hostages.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry has placed the Palestinian death toll since October 7 at over 34,000 people, although this figure cannot be independently verified and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel says it has killed some 13,000 Hamas gunmen in battle, as well as some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7. Since Israel launched the ground offensive in Gaza, 260 IDF soldiers have been killed.

The AIVD did not say how many of the foiled jihadist attacks had occurred since October 7.

In December, the Dutch counterterrorism agency increased the country’s threat alert to its second-highest level because of concerns about the Islamic State group’s Khorasan affiliates, Akerboom said. IS-K, a Central Asian affiliate, was responsible for the attack at a suburban Moscow concert hall that killed at least 133 people in March.

According to the new report, “global jihadism has been the greatest terrorist threat for years in the Netherlands.” Incidents such as the one last April, when an anti-Islam activist tore pages from the Quran in front of the Dutch parliament building, put the Netherlands on the map of targets.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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