Islamic State (IS) militants are increasing their presence in Europe, according to the head of Netherlands' counter-terrorism unit. Speaking to the Associated Press, Dick Schoof said IS (Daesh) was now recruiting those who could plan attacks in Europe, rather than travel to Syria or Iraq to fight against the coalition forces.

Schoof, who was in New York to attend a meeting about the threat of returning foreign fighters, said that as the terror organisation's presence in Iraq diminishes its members will spread out, coming to Europe as refugees. IS has lost significant territory in Iraq in recent months, with a campaign to oust them from their final stronghold, Mosul, still ongoing.

He reiterated that an attack on the Netherlands and other European targets was a growing threat with an estimated 4,000-5,000 Europeans currently in Iraq and Syria.

He said: "We have seen 294 terrorist fighters go overseas in Iraq and Syria and there are still 190 over there, and what happened in France and Brussels and Germany could happen to us."

Though that might seem like a small number, he added: "Whether there's 190 or 350, I think the number is big enough to worry."

Schoof called for cooperation between national authorities to ensure those returnees could be arrested and prosecuted as well as have assets frozen and passports confiscated. Local authorities could also provide lesser interventions such as education and psychological support to prevent radicalisation of youngsters, he said.

Meanwhile Jozias van Aartsen, the mayor of The Hague – Netherlands' administrative hub – said it was vital to build good relations with the Muslim community.

He said: "There are some in the Netherlands who say shut down mosques. That's absolutely wrong policy."

Since the attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris last year, terror attacks in Europe carried out either on behalf of IS or associated Muslim fundamentalism have killed over 250 people. The biggest of those attacks took place in Paris in November 2015, killing 130 people, and in Nice where 84 were killed in an attack on Bastille Day this year.

Fear of terrorism in France
France remains in a state of emergency following recent terror attacksTHOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images