The warning comes from the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), an intelligence agency dealing with domestic non-military threats to the Netherlands. AIVD gave public an update on the presence of Dutch nationals in the ranks of the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Not only IS fighters, but also their children should be considered as potential threats and monitored as “jihadist travelers,” AIVD director Rob Bertholee told the national broadcaster Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS)
“Boys can attend training camps from the age of nine,” he said, adding that children of that age “or even younger” had likely been involved in attacks and executions. “Children in the IS area have lost their innocence due to all the violence.”
AVID estimates that there are some 80 children of Dutch nationals currently living in IS-held lands. The agency also warned that “jihadist travellers” returning to the Netherlands now may be a bigger threat than those who had returned earlier due to greater experience.
“Children as well as adults may have participated in the fighting or in other acts of violence,” the AIVD report said. “It is possible that these experiences lower the threshold for the use of violence and can result in trauma.”
The agency identified some 270 Dutch nationals as having gone to Syria and Iraq to join terrorists. Of those 80 has returned, mostly in 2015. The numbers are a small fraction of several thousands of European citizens, who are estimated to have fought for IS at one point or another.
The Dutch concerns over radicalised children appear to be well-founded. IS is known to indoctrinate children from early years into its fundamentalist version of Islam. It also has a record of using minors as executioners and suicide bombers.