Intelligence experts estimate that ISIS has between 60 and 80 operatives planted in Europe to carry out attacks, the Dutch counterterrorism coordinator said Friday.
Dick Schoof said in an interview with The Associated Press that would-be fighters are also heeding messages from the militant group “asking them not to come to Syria and Iraq, but to prepare attacks in Europe.”
One result is that over the last six months the number of “foreign terrorist fighters” hasn’t grown, he said, 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 ISIS from its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq are scattering the extremist group’s fighters 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 militant extremists such as those in Belgium and France, “the chance of attack in the Netherlands is real.”
“We have seen 294 terrorist fighters 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.”
There are probably between 4,000 and 5,000 European “foreign terrorist fighters” in Iraq and Syria, Schoof said.