According to the municipal Government of Amsterdam, on November 8th and 9th, the Dutch capital held terrorist-attack response drills, amidst an increased number of terrorist incidents in Europe. The exercise consisted of police and tactical drills, as well as medical emergency response drills. One of the simulated attacks, which had 240 participants, included an armed perpetrator with a vehicle — a scenario that has too often been reality for many European cities. The locations where the drills took place included a restaurant, Zeeburg Island, and Europaplein. The city announced the drills over two weeks in advance, sending letters to residents in the East and South districts of Amsterdam informing them on the details of the exercises.
On the municipality’s website, the government has also stressed that security measures must be taken “at busy places in the city with great symbolic value and international appearance.” On November 9th, the municipality placed concrete blocks in ‘der Dam’, Amsterdam’s central square, as a means of protecting pedestrians from vehicular terrorist attacks. The city said that more barriers to protect pedestrians will be built across the city in upcoming months.
Even with the measures in place, the city warned citizens that “an attack can never be ruled out entirely”
From vehicles driving into crowds in Berlin and Nice, to the use of explosives, guns, and blades against civilians and police, the increasing frequency of attacks is weighing on European minds.
In its 2017 EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, Europol — the European Union’s intelligence agency — suggests that attack targets are not random. It underscores how attacks are often “carried out in locations with international character, such as the metro station in Brussels (close to EU institutions), and Zaventem airport (an international airport), have a multiplier effect with guaranteed worldwide media attention.”
In the last month, the BBC has reported on many instances of governments taking anti-terrorist measures seriously. The United Kingdom has implemented a scheme to refer minors to an anti-terror prevention program, and last October, France approved a law that would allow the police to make arrests and raids without getting judicial approval.
While some European politicians hold Islam as the cause for the rise in recent terrorist incidents, others do not see religion as the problem, but contend that jihadist attacks are inspired by distorted ideologies. After the 2017 Westminster Attack in London last March, UK leaders were divided on the cause for the attack. The former Defense Secretary Michael Fallon blamed the attack on “Islamic Terrorism”. In response, Prime Minister Theresa May commented that “it is wrong to describe this [attack]as ‘Islamic terrorism’” and instead “it is ‘Islamist terrorism’, it is a perversion of a great faith.” Following the June 2017 London Bridge attack, May repeated her stance in a speech at Downing Street by describing Islamist Terrorism as “an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth.”