Netherlands is prime target for foreign spies

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Dutch intelligence warns of an increasing number of spies from Russia, China and Morocco operating in the country.

THE HAGUE – A Dutch intelligence service warned Tuesday of a growing threat posed by foreign espionage in the country, pointing in particular to Russia, China and Morocco.

"The Netherlands and Dutch citizens are... attractive targets for foreign intelligence services," said the annual report of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), released in The Hague.

"The threat posed by clandestine intelligence activities is big and diverse.

"The secret activities of other countries in the Netherlands affect national sovereignty and can harm national security."

Dutch membership of the European Union and NATO, as well as the country's hosting of a number of international organisations, made it a prime target for spies, said the report.

"Also the presence of large groups of migrants attracts unwonted foreign intelligence activities."

The agency's report said Russian intelligence services were active in the Netherlands with a particular interest in information about NATO, the techno-science sector, the defence industry and energy.

China was seeking to "exert influence over political decision-making" in different sectors, it said, while the Moroccan intelligence service "had attempted to set up a network of informants in the Netherlands."

In September, the Dutch government protested through diplomatic channels after claims that a policeman of Moroccan descent had been dismissed on suspicion of spying, leading Morocco to recall two diplomats from The Hague.

The AIVD said Tuesday that too much government and individual transparency posed a real danger, adding: "The Dutch are not sufficiently aware of the risks of espionage and foreign manipulation."

It also warned that the country with its technological advances was an "interesting target for countries and organisations that pursue the possession of weapons of mass destruction".

The AIVD, which focuses its intelligence gathering on non-military threats, reports to the minister of internal affairs.

It said jihadist terrorism was a danger to the Netherlands, particularly since far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders brought out his anti-Islam film Fitna.

There were more and more reports of people from Europe undergoing military training in Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the service.

The Dutch terror level was raised a year ago from "limited" to "substantial".

AFP / Expatica

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