Counter-Terrorism: The Swarm


July 8, 2014: Dutch counter-terrorism experts fear that Islamic terrorism in Holland, and elsewhere, is becoming more difficult to deal with because of what they call the “swarm effect”. This is partly the result of intelligence being able to quickly identify Islamic terrorist groups that are organized and take them down before they can make attacks. That has forced Islamic terrorists to develop other forms of organization. Thus a growing number of attacks are the result of individuals or casually created groups getting orders via Internet based social networks about what kinds of attacks to make and how to do it. Social networks make it possible for many active terrorists to stay in touch with new information on targets and techniques and, when a general call for “action” goes out it is very difficult for intelligence organizations to detect exactly who will act. But increasingly radicalized Moslems do act.

Fortunately these attacks are small scale, often involving one attacker often using improvised weapons (like a knife) against individuals. Nevertheless there are a growing number of individuals who have training and experience in building or obtaining more powerful weapons (firearms and explosives) and carrying out deadlier attacks. This is particularly true in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. The Syrian fighting, which has been the most intense and long-lasting has already attracted over 3,000 European Moslems (mostly young men, many of them teenagers). These men have gone to Syria to fight and most of them return with newly acquired terrorist skills, including advice from more experienced terrorists on how to obtain firearms and explosives on the black market.

Dutch police believe that only 120 Dutch Moslems have gone to Syria to fight and 10-15 percent of whose have been killed. Most will make it back and based on the evidence so far many of the returnees will serve as effective recruiters to get more young men to go. Some five percent of Dutch are now Moslem, most of them migrants who arrived in the last few decades and their children. Cable news networks and the Islamic terrorists enable these migrants to stay in touch with their old lives more than at any time in the past and this makes it more difficult to leave harmful things, like Islamic radicalism and Islamic terrorism behind. Especially for young Moslems the appeal of “jihad” in defense of Moslem is strong and increasingly that turns into acts of terrorism in their new homes.






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