Denmark: Extremism and Terrorism

From February 6 to February 8, 2021, authorities in Denmark and Germany arrested over 14 people on suspicion of planning “one or more” terrorist attacks. Working with police, PET—the Danish Security and Intelligence Service—arrested seven people between February 6 and 8 on attempted terrorism charges throughout the greater Copenhagen suburbs. Specifically, the charges included “planning one or more terrorist attacks or being accessory to attempted terrorism,” and “having acquired ingredients and components for manufacturing explosives as well as firearms or having aided and abetted in the offense.” On February 11, the Court of Holbaek ordered the detention of another six people allegedly connected to the incident. German authorities also arrest one person “linked” to the investigation, who allegedly had a “self-painted” ISIS flag upon searching his Naumburg apartment. Among those arrested were three Syrian brothers. (Sources: Euronews, NPR, Deutsche Welle)

On May 11, 2020, Danish prosecutors charged two Swedish men with terrorism for detonating an explosive at Denmark’s central tax authority in August 2019. The men face life in prison if found guilty. The two Swedes drove from Sweden to Copenhagen’s tax agency’s main office and detonated the explosive, damaging the building but not injuring any bystanders. In recent years, Danish authorities have been on high-alert over Swedish-based organized crime networks seeping into Denmark, leading to Denmark briefly closing its land bridge with Sweden and introducing temporary border controls. (Source: Deutsche Welle)

On April 30, 2020, police in Copenhagen claimed to have foiled a terrorist plot. According to sources, the attempted terror attack had a “militant Islamic motive.” Danish police arrested a man who attempted to obtain firearms and ammunition to carry out several attacks. It is suspected that the perpetrator acted alone. (Source: Deutsche Welle)

Over the past decade, Danish authorities have identified Islamist extremist ideology as a serious and imminent threat. In particular, authorities have been concerned by the threat from al-Qaeda since the publication of controversial cartoons in 2005 and 2008. More recently, Denmark’s participation in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS has put the country on a higher alert of Islamist attacks. (Source: CTA)

As of March 2020, at least 159 Danish citizens have gone to fight alongside extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. Of those that left, approximately 34 are currently fighting, about half of them have returned to Denmark or other European countries, around 50 have died, and about 9 are located in various third countries. Danish foreign fighters have also threatened Denmark from abroad. In August 2014, a Danish foreign fighter with ISIS warned in an interview with a Danish newspaper that “soon it will be Denmark’s turn.” Sympathizers within Denmark have also declared support for ISIS. A number of such sympathizers are reported to attend the Grimhøj mosque in the city of Aarhus. The mosque’s leadership declared its support for ISIS in September 2014. (Sources: CTA, The Local, EuroNews)

Danish authorities have carried out numerous arrests and prosecuted multiple terrorism suspects. In April 2020, Danish police arrested a man in Copenhagen who sought to carry out a terror attack with a “militant Islamic motive.” The suspect attempted to obtain firearms and ammunition to carry out several operations across the country. In December 2019, Danish police arrested 20 people in connection with plotting an Islamist inspired terrorist attack. The suspects allegedly sought to obtain explosives and firearms. In November 2017, a Danish high court sentenced a 16-year-old girl to eight years imprisonment for plotting to bomb two schools, including a private Jewish school in Copenhagen. In April 2016, Copenhagen police arrested four foreign fighter returnees suspected of having broken Danish counterterrorism law while fighting in Syria. Police found weaponry and ammunition during the raid. (Sources: The Local, Reuters, Deutsche Welle, U.S. Department of State, The Local, The Local, The Local, The Local, Deutsche Welle, Euronews)

Right-wing extremism also poses challenges for the country. PET, Denmark’s intelligence agency, has dedicated additional resources to monitor the spread of right-wing propaganda. On March 23, 2020, PET raised the terror threat in Denmark from “reduced” to “general” given the growing threat of European right-wing extremists throughout the world. Anders Henriksen, the head of the Center for Terroranalyse, claims “the most likely right-wing terrorist attack in Denmark is an attack carried out by a solo terrorist or a small group.” Denmark’s right-wing extremist have various objectives, with their primary motivation being opposing the spread of Islam in Denmark, along with other objectives such as curbing immigration and confronting political opponents considered responsible for non-Western immigration to Europe. (Sources: CPH Post, Center for Terroranalyse)

Denmark’s most notable anti-extremism and anti-terrorism legislation can be found in its two Anti-Terror Packages from 2002 and 2006, respectively. Following the February 2015 attacks in Copenhagen, Denmark approved legislation that allows the government to issue travel bans for Danish nationals and to repeal residence permits of foreigners who pose a risk to the country. A December 2016 law allows authorities to sanction and ban religious leaders from entering the country if they “pose concern for public order.” As of March 2020, Denmark has banned 13 hate preachers for inciting violence, hatred, or terrorism. (Sources: ICCT, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Library of Congress,

Danish authorities have also initiated various counter-extremism and deradicalization programs. Denmark published its national action plan to prevent and counter extremism and radicalization in October 2016. The plan outlines enhanced policing efforts, countering propaganda and preventing online radicalization, addressing foreign fighters and returnees, targeted criminal intervention programs, preventing radicalization in prisons, day-care and school programming, and strengthening outreach to local communities. Most notably, Danish authorities have launched a program, known as the Aarhus Model, which focuses on early prevention of radicalization, deradicalization and exit strategies for extremists, as well as rehabilitation for returning foreign fighters. (Sources:, Danish Ministry of Immigration, Integration, and Housing, U.S. Department of State, NPR)

In February 2018, Denmark’s National Center for the Prevention of Extremism (National Center) issued a handbook that would provide municipalities the necessary tactics and methods to prevent radicalization and extremism. In June 2018, the U.S. Embassy also provided a CVE-focused TechCamp for at-risk youth in the digital space as a way to counter extremist narratives and dialogues. Additionally, in August 2018, the National Center began to publish an online magazine to help youth identify terrorist ideology and propaganda online. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

Internationally, the Danish Armed Forces participate in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, and the Danish government funds multiple stabilization and conflict prevention initiatives in Sahel, Syria, East Africa, and the greater Afghanistan-Pakistan region. (Source: Danish Ministry of Defence, Associated Press, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Jihadist Homegrown Radicalization

The largest terror threats to Denmark comes from individuals and small groups in Denmark and neighboring countries. The largest number of extremists in Denmark sympathize with militant Islamism, particularly al-Qaeda and ISIS. The CTA, established within the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (Politiets Efterretningstjeneste or PET), is especially concerned about individuals with contact to terrorist groups abroad, as well as Danish foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq who could use their local knowledge of Denmark to plot attacks there. However, as of March 2020, a growing number of far-right extremists inspired by violent white supremacists across the world have been documented. (Sources: CTA, CTA)

According to the March 2020 CTA terror threat assessment, attacks are most likely to be carried out by lone individuals, acting spontaneously or after short planning and using simple and accessible weapons. However, the CTA has assessed that given the territorial losses suffered by ISIS in 2019, the terror threat to Denmark from ISIS has declined. The number of Islamist-inspired attacks against Western countries decreased since 2017, as the average number of foiled or successful attacks per month in the West fell from 6.7 to 2.4 in 2018 and then to 1.8 in 2019. The majority was conducted by lone actors, often previously known to security authorities. Denmark assesses its terrorist threat level as “significant”—the country’s second highest category—due to the presence of “individuals with intent and capability to commit terrorist attacks in Denmark.” Cyberattacks and terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material are believed to be very unlikely. (Source: CTA)

Islamists have viewed Denmark as a legitimate target due to perceived insults to Islam, such as the Prophet Mohammad cartoon controversy, and Danish military participation in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. (Source: CTA)

The CTA also believes that refugees and asylum seekers might be particularly vulnerable to radicalization and prone to be recruited by Islamists. The CTA acknowledged that denial of asylum can, in part, trigger violent acts of terrorism. For example, Rakhmat Akilov, an Uzbek asylum seeker, ploughed a truck into a department store in central Stockholm in April 2017, killing five people. He had been denied residency in Sweden and was scheduled to be deported. ISIS has also reportedly used migratory routes to smuggle fighters among the waves of refugees into Europe and worked to recruit asylum seekers for their jihadist cause. Enhanced security measures and border controls has impeded access to Europe, but entering via third countries or with stolen or forged documents has remained possible. (Sources: CTA, BBC News)

The CTA has also warned against radicalization emanating from prison inmates. A growing number of inmates serve prison sentences for terrorism-related charges and could direct or recruit others to their cause. (Source: CTA)

On March 23, 2020, the CTA raised the terror threat in Denmark from “reduced” to “general” given the growing threat of European right-wing extremists throughout the world. Anders Henriksen, the head of the Terror Analysis Centre claims “the most likely right-wing terrorist attack in Denmark is an attack carried out by a solo terrorist or a small group.” (Source: CPH Post)

Islamist Extremist Groups in Denmark

Several Islamist organizations operate inside Denmark. They disseminate propaganda and try to recruit new individuals either on the Internet or in person and at club meetings in and around major cities like Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Odense. Some groups collect financial donations and supplies to support Islamist groups in conflict zones like Syria. According to the 2018 CTA report, individuals associated with Islamist organizations still pose a threat to Denmark, although public support for ISIS and al-Qaeda within these circles has been less noticeable in 2017 than before. (Source: CTA)

The international Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir operates a branch out of Copenhagen called Hizb ut-Tahrir Scandinavia (HT Scandinavia). The group seeks to unite Muslims under a single caliphate and has called on Denmark’s Muslim community to abstain from voting in the general elections. In 2018, HT Scandinavia released a critical statement on their website condemning the “ban on Niqab, the Imam-law, and the discriminating ghetto-plan,” referring to legislation passed in recent months that banned face veils in public, sanctioned hate preachers, and regulated life in low-income and Muslim-majority neighborhoods. Denmark has refrained from banning HT Scandinavia given that no members have been found guilty of participating in violent activities within the country. In 2008, the Danish public prosecutor ruled that there were no legal grounds on which to ban the group. However, attempts to ban the group renewed after the February 2015 twin shooting in Copenhagen, as well as the January 2016 arrest of a 16-year-old alleged member of HT Scandinavia who had been plotting to bomb two schools. In May 2016, the municipality of Copenhagen ruled that HT Scandinavia is no longer allowed to use state-funded locations. (Sources: The Local, Center for Mellemøststudier – Syddanks Universitet, The Local, HT Scandinavia, HT Scandinavia, U.S. Department of State, The Local, New York Times, Live Trading News, CPH Post Online, New York Times)

Kaldet til Islam, (“The Calling to Islam”) was founded by Shiraz Tariq (a.k.a. Abu Musa) and has been operating inside Denmark since 2009. Its members have advocated for the establishment of a caliphate under sharia law in Denmark, and regularly urged Danish Muslim citizens to refrain from voting in the Danish elections. In 2011, the group implemented so called “sharia zones” in a neighborhood of Copenhagen. Kaldet til Islam is reportedly modeled after, and is in close contact with, the British radical group Islam4UK (a.k.a. al-Muhajiroun), created by Omar Bakri Muhammad and now led by Anjem Choudary. Several members of Kaldet til Islam reportedly traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS, including the group’s leader Shiraz Tariq who was allegedly killed in combat in October 2013. (Sources: Hate Speech International, Time,, The Local, Perspectives on Terrorism)

The German Islamist group Millatu Ibrahim operates a branch in Denmark called Millatu Ibrahim Denmark. Founded in 2014, the group denounces democracy and advocates for sharia inside Denmark. Several of its members have been affiliated with Kaldet til Islam and have fought alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (Sources: Ekstra Bladet, Ekstra Bladet, The Local, Perspectives on Terrorism)

The Islamic Society of Denmark, or Islamisk Trossamfund, is headquartered in Copenhagen and runs the country’s biggest mosque, including a Quranic school and library. Founded in 1995, the society is reportedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and aims to educate the Danish and Swedish public about Islam as a way of life. After the Danish Parliament passed legislation in August 2018 banning the burqa and the niqab in public spaces, many members of Islamisk Trossamfund condemned this decision and protested on the streets. (Sources: New York Times, Gyldendal Den Store Danske, Center for Mellemøststudier – Syddanks Universitet, CPH News, The Atlantic, Time)

In September 2014, a group known as De Humanitære Hjerter (“The Humanitarian Hearts”) allegedly sold stickers which read “Support our Ummah” written over ISIS’s logo. In response, Danish police raided four addresses and arrested two leaders of the group. In May 2016, authorities concluded the investigations and determined that the two leaders could not be punished for supporting ISIS due to lack of evidence. (Sources: Newsweek,

The Grimhøj Mosque

In September 2014, the Grimhøj mosque in the city of Aarhus openly declared support for ISIS. The mosque had been under investigation by Danish police since July 2014, when a video emerged of the mosque’s imam, Abu Bilal Ismail, calling on God to “destroy the Zionist Jews.” Ismail was later convicted by a German court for incitement to hatred and fined 1,300 euros for delivering an anti-Western and anti-Semitic sermon in Berlin, Germany. The Grimhøj mosque is also reportedly a haven for Danish jihadists. Twenty-two of the more than one hundred Danish foreign fighters who have gone to fight in the Middle East had previously worshipped at Grimhøj. (Sources: The Local, Newsweek, Jerusalem Post)

The Grimhøj mosque came under fire again in February 2016 after a hidden camera recorded Ismail calling for women adulterers to be stoned to death. Ismail said, “If a married or divorced woman engages in fornication, and she is not a virgin, she should be stoned to death.” He also asserted that anyone who kills a Muslim should be killed, and that apostates (those who leave Islam), should also receive the death penalty. The video sparked renewed calls for authorities to shut down the mosque and to strip radical imams of their Danish citizenship. (Sources: The Local, TV 2. Independent)  

Foreign Fighters

As of January 2018, more than 150 Danish citizens have left the country since 2012 to fight with ISIS or other militant Islamist groups. The numbers have steadily declined since 2014 with only very few leaving in 2017. Of those that left, approximately 30 are currently fighting, about 50 have returned to Denmark, an estimated 37 have died, and about 33 are located in various other countries. (Sources: ICCT, CTA, U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council)

In December 2013, the CTA assessed that foreign fighters from Denmark are predominately Sunni Muslim males aged between 16 and 25 years. Foreign fighters come from various ethnic backgrounds and include Danish converts to Islam. A small number—14 percent—are women. Some of them have brought their children to Syria and Iraq, while others gave birth there. Many foreign fighters were reportedly radicalized in Islamist milieus in Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Odense. Additionally, about 50 percent of foreign fighters have been involved in criminal activities prior to their departure. According to the CTA, some funds raised in Danish Islamic circles for Syrian humanitarian aid have been used to finance foreign fighters’ travel to Syria. (Sources: CTA, CTA, ICCT)

In December 2016, the Danish government revealed that thousands of Danish krone worth of state unemployment benefits had mistakenly reached to at least 36 Danish individuals fighting in Syria or Iraq. Employment minister Troels Lund Poulsen immediately promised to halt and recover the funds. (Sources: Independent, The Local)

A study from the International Centre for Counter Terrorism (ICCT) in April 2016 determined that Denmark, in comparison to other EU member states, has the fourth highest per capita number of foreign fighters in Syria with about 22 foreign fighters per one million inhabitants. By comparison, Belgium ranks the highest with 41 foreign fighters per million inhabitants. Denmark’s intelligence service, Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET), warned in June 2014 that a “significant number” of Danes had acquired “specific military skills as a result of training and participation in combat operations” that could be used to carry out terror attacks within Denmark or on Danish interests abroad. (Sources: Al Jazeera, Economist, ICCT)

According to an August 2014 testimony from a Danish citizen fighting with ISIS, the terror group is plotting against Denmark. In an interview with periodical Politiken, the militant, identified only as “OA,” declared that Denmark was “high on ISIS’s list.” OA—who was back living in Denmark but planned to return to Syria—said that ISIS’s fight “is an open war… ISIS has said that all infidels should be battled. They should be eliminated and soon it will be Denmark’s turn.” (Source: The Local)

In December 2014, 18-year-old Danish convert to Islam Lukas Dam was reportedly killed while fighting alongside ISIS. His mother, Karolina Dam, expressed her disappointment with Danish authorities for failing to prevent her son from traveling to Syria. She had reportedly alerted social workers about her son’s increasing radicalization, but they failed to act. Mrs. Dam reportedly received an apology from Copenhagen’s city hall for the “failings of the system.” (Sources: PBS Newshour, 3 News)

According to a 2014 report, a Danish national identified as Abu Sa’ad al-Denmarki acted as a suicide bomber for ISIS. ISIS sources claim that al-Denmarki “mobilized from Denmark to the Islamic State, seeking martyrdom in the cause of Allah.” ISIS has previously claimed that Danish citizens have carried out suicide bombing missions for the terror group. (Source: Long War Journal)

The U.S. State Department also asserted that Danish citizen and former Guantanamo detainee Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane was killed fighting in Syria in February 2014. In March of the same year, Danish convert to Islam Kenneth Sorensen (aka Abdul Malik) was killed fighting in Syria. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

In December 2016, Joanna Palani, a 23-year-old Danish woman who fought with Kurdish forces against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, was arrested in Copenhagen. According to Danish authorities, she violated a 12-month travel ban and Danish passport laws, designed to stop citizens from participating in the conflict in Iraq and Syria. Her lawyer said: “It’s a shame. We are the first country in the world to punish a person who has been fighting on the same side as the international coalition. It’s hypocritical to punish her.”(Sources: Guardian, Daily Mail)

A limited number of Danish foreign fighters are expected to return from Syria or Iraq. As ISIS continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria, Danish foreign fighters are more likely to travel to third countries than returning to Denmark in order to avoid criminal prosecution. Nonetheless, the CTA warns that those who return might be prone to violence and pose a significant threat to Denmark due to their combat experience, the exposed brutality, and indoctrination of Islamist ideology during their time in ISIS-held territory. (Source: CTA)

Far-Right and Left-Wing Extremism

Denmark’s right-wing extremist circles recruit new members and sympathizers by disseminating and promoting racist and anti-immigrant messages through social media websites and online forums. Other activities include public demonstrations against Islam and immigration, or special events celebrating fascist and Nazi leaders. However, many extreme right-wing activities occur in a more private setting to avoid counter-demonstrations, including educational lessons and activities that provoke planning and executing attacks against religious minorities, asylum centers, refugees, migrants, certain politicians, or related authorities. A growing number of individuals are motivated to use violence and have access to weapons and martial arts training. (Sources: CTA, Danish Centre for Prevention of Extremism, PET)

In March 2020, the CTA assessed that the terror threat from right-wing extremists has increased from “limited” to “general” in 2019. Danish right-wing extremists have a number of political objectives, including preventing the spread of Islam in Denmark, curbing immigration, and confronting left-wing politicians and groups. The CTA believes that right-wing extremists are most likely to be carried out by lone actors or a small group using some combination of light firearms, blades, and possible vehicles. Additionally, given the rise of violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants in neighboring European countries since 2015, the CTA believes that Denmark will not be immune to right-wing extremist violence. The CTA determined that far-right extremists are active on virtual platforms and online media are widely used for disseminating right-wing extremist propaganda as well as radicalizing others. (Source: CTA)

According to the 2020 CTA report, left-wing extremists—even though they are believed to be prepared to use violence against political opponents—continue to pose a limited terrorist threat to Denmark. Public activities include demonstrations that aim to create awareness and broader political sympathy for a specific case, recruit new activists, and to create a foundation for political alliances with moderate left-wing groups and parties. Private activities may involve planning of attacks on police and assaults on political opponents. Other methods can include sabotage, vandalism, or targeted destruction of property. (Sources: CTA, Danish Centre for Prevention of Extremism)


In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, including one depicting Mohammad with a bomb in his turban. The cartoons, drawn by Kurt Westergaard, launched what then-Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the country’s “biggest political crisis since World War II.” Mass protests erupted, and Danish embassies in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria were attacked in 2005 and 2006. In 2008, a car bomb exploded near the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing six and injuring 30. In 2010, al-Qaeda published an article titled “The Cartoon Crusade” in its recruitment magazine, Inspire, threatening attacks on Denmark and its interests abroad. The cartoons were re-printed in 2008, precipitating another onslaught of attacks targeting both Kurt Westergaard and Jyllands-Posten. (Sources: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Newsweek)


The backbone of Denmark’s counterterrorism policy is composed of two anti-terrorism packages implemented in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

The 2002 “Anti-Terrorism Package I” amended the Danish penal code to criminalize the provision of financial and other support for terrorism. Among other measures it required telecommunication and Internet companies to log “individual data traffic” of “relevance to police interception” for at least one year. The measure implies logging the data traffic only—not the content—of an individual’s telecommunication activity (such as email). This data is seen as necessary in investigating and prosecuting terrorists. (Sources: Council of Europe, Institute for Strategic Dialogue)

“Anti-Terrorism Package II” was implemented in 2006 in the aftermath of the Madrid and London terror attacks. Anti-Terrorism Package II criminalized terrorist training activities and authorized greater intelligence sharing between PET and the Danish Military Intelligence Service. (Sources: Council of Europe, Institute for Strategic Dialogue)

In response to the refugee crisis in 2015, Denmark introduced temporary border controls along its land borders with Sweden and Germany, as well as tightened passport controls for air and sea travel. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

In response to the February 2015 attacks in Copenhagen, Denmark reformed its Passport Act and the Act on Aliens in March 2015. The amendments allow authorities to revoke or refuse passports, and issue travel bans for Danish nationals who pose a risk to the country, as well as to repeal residence permits of foreigners that “participated in activities that may involve or increase a danger to national security, public order or other states’ security.” (Sources: ICCT, U.S. Department of State)

The Danish Parliament adopted a subsequent amendment to the Aliens Act in December 2016, allowing the government to sanction and ban radical religious leaders from entering the country if they pose “concern for public order in Denmark.” As of October 2018, there are 17 hate preachers on Denmark’s National Sanction List who have been banned for inciting violence, hatred, or terrorism and by such “undermin[ing] Danish law and values and support[ing] parallel legal systems.” (Sources: ICCT, U.S. Library of Congress, U.S. Department of State,

Moreover, individuals convicted of terrorism can be stripped of their Danish citizenship unless this loss renders them stateless, according to Chapter 13 of the Danish Criminal Code. (Source: ICCT)

In November 2016, Denmark ratified the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Prevention of Terrorism, which criminalizes belonging to a terrorist organization, receiving terrorist training, traveling abroad for terrorist purposes, and organizing travels for such purposes. (Sources: Council of Europe, Council of Europe)

In an effort to further curb the outreach of Islamist extremism, Denmark’s parliament is expected to debate legislation that would require all sermons in languages other than Danish to be translated and submitted to the state. The draft law is expected to be debated in February 2021. The government has claimed the law would aim to “enlarge the transparency of religious events and sermons in Denmark, when these are given in a language other than Danish.” More than 270,000 Muslims live in Denmark, where most sermons preached in mosque are delivered in Arabic. Critics of the law claim the Danish government should work with religious organizations rather than resort to a “negative and legalistic” approach that drastically monitors the rights of minority groups. The law would not be limited to Muslim sermons, and would extend to churches of all denominations, which has resulted in a flurry of criticism from the Evangelical Lutheran church in Denmark, the Lutheran World Federation, the Roman Catholic Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and the Conference of European Churches. (Sources: Christian Post, Guardian)

Security Agencies

The intelligence activities of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) established the Center for Terror Analysis (CTA) in January 2007. The CTA is responsible for analyzing terror threats, and comprises staff from various Danish security agencies including DDIS, PET, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Danish Emergency Management Agency. Since September 2017, Danish police and defense forces are both responsible for preventing terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, protecting potential targets, and enforcing border controls. Moreover, PET is the lead organization in northern Europe for investigating terrorism financing. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, CTA, U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council)

Government Programs

In 2005, the Danish government launched the Action Plan for the Fight Against Terrorism, an initiative containing numerous programs including the cooperation of resources, investigation of terrorism, civic preparedness, dialogue with Muslim communities, and research. (Source: PET)

The PET also hosts a quarterly Dialogue Forum, to facilitate discussion and cooperation between PET and Denmark’s Muslim community to discuss various issues related to violent extremism. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation)

In 2009, the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs in cooperation with the municipalities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, East Jutland Police District and PET, launched an initiative called “Deradicalisation – targeted intervention.” The project, part of the Aarhus Model, identifies individuals at risk of extremist indoctrination and provides tools to support these individuals’ deradicalization process. Denmark’s SSP cooperation, (school, social authorities, police), which was launched in the 1970s as a crime prevention initiative, has played an important role in shaping the intervention. (Sources:, NATO)

As part of the program social workers, teachers and community members notify the program about potential extremists, who are then invited by the police for an interview. According to Aarhus police officer Allan Aarslev, “if we invite people in a frank and direct way, they come.” Police and welfare workers then assess what can be done for the individual, considering options such as job training, a mentoring program, or educational opportunities. (Source: Globe and Mail)

In August 2015, the Copenhagen Anti-Radicalization Task Force delivered an “action plan” to the Copenhagen municipality. The plan highlighted the importance of closer dialogue with religious communities, and suggested strengthening the “democratic formation” and citizenship of schoolchildren through teaching materials and clubs. The plan also recommended that Copenhagen cooperate on counter-extremism efforts with police units and prisons. Task Force leader and Swedish terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told PBS, “We [are] looking at, how can we improve the system? How can we involve civil society more? How can we involve parents as well?” (Sources: Københavns Kommune, Københavns Kommune, PBS Newshour)

The Task Force is part of a broader four-year integration plan spearheaded by the Copenhagen municipality. The plan’s stated goal is to get “the number of Copenhageners who support Sharia Law to fall.” In response to the plan, the Danish branch of international Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir led a meeting dubbed “Proud of Sharia.” The group wrote on its website, “We in Hizb ut-Tahrir have a stated goal of protecting Islam and getting Muslims to adhere to their values. We have therefore repeatedly revealed Danish politicians’ attacks against Islam and Muslims, and this time is no exception.” (Sources: The Local, The Local)

The Danish government approved a new National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Extremism and Radicalisation in October 2016. The plan outlines enhanced policing efforts, countering propaganda and preventing online radicalization, addressing foreign fighters and returnees, targeted criminal intervention programs, preventing radicalization in prisons, day-care and school programming, and strengthening outreach to local communities. It authorizes PET to quickly take down violent extremist online materials and to implement a blocking filter that limits access to webpages with terrorist content. The 2017–2019 Danish foreign and security policy also incorporates these provisions. (Sources: Danish Ministry of Immigration, Integration, and Housing, U.S. Department of State)

Rehabilitation of Foreign Fighters

Since early 2014, Aarhus police and welfare services have run a rehabilitation program for returning foreign fighters known as the “exit program for radicalized citizens.” The initiative offers medical treatment for war wounds and psychological trauma. The program also assists returning fighters with finding work or resuming education. The initiative was launched after authorities in Aarhus discovered that approximately 31 people from the city left to fight in Syria since 2012. (Source: New York Times)

Upon returning to Denmark, returnees are screened by the police with help from PET to determine if they have committed crimes. According to Aarhus police officer Allan Aarslav, the police’s “first priority is to make sure you’re prosecuted when you get back. If you get back and want to get a grip on your old life, we can also help you to do that.” The program does not attempt to change the ideology of the extremists. According to rehabilitator Steffen Nielsen, “We don't spend a lot of energy fighting ideology. We don't try to take away your jihadist beliefs. You are welcome to dream of the Caliphate. But there are some means that you cannot use according to the penal code here. You can be al-Shabab all you like, as long as you don't actually do al-Shabab.” (Sources: Globe and Mail, Newsweek, Al Jazeera)

On December 30, 2019, Danish Prime Minister Metter Frederiksen announced that Denmark will not allow the return of about 30 children whose parents joined ISIS. Frederiksen claims that the “challenge is that we cannot separate the children from their mothers.” Over 36 Danes are reported to have travelled from Denmark to Iraq or Syria. (Source: The National)


In May 2011, the Danish Prison and Probation Service launched a 3-year project on deradicalization in prisons. The program, called “Back on Track,” aimed to deradicalize extremist inmates who may have adopted far-right, far-left, or religiously motivated extremist ideologies. As a contribution to the process, in 2013 PET released a handbook for prison officials on how to spot violent extremism among prisoners. Although Denmark’s approach is widely recognized successful, issues remain. In July 2018, the Danish Prison Service had to ban Internet access for all inmates after extremist content was found on four PlayStation consoles inside a prison in Nyborg. (Sources: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, U.S. Department of State,, The Local)  

Denmark has engaged militarily in foreign conflicts including the fight against ISIS, the French-led intervention of Mali, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Libya, and the war in Iraq.


Denmark is a member of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS that has contributed to the stabilization efforts in Iraq and Syria. In September 2014, the Danish government pledged seven F-16 fighter jets, four operational planes, three reserve jets, and 250 pilots and support staff for a period of deployment lasting 12 months. Then-Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmid stated, “No one should be ducking in this case. Everyone should contribute.” (Source: Associated Press)

Denmark pulled its F-16s from the battle in August 2015 to repair the jets and rest its personnel. Foreign minister Kristian Jensen said, “The government has decided that our fighter jet contribution should be brought home for a period in order to be repaired and for pilots and other personnel to be restored to health in preparation for being sent out again.” The F-16s had reportedly flown 476 missions and dropped 425 bombs. (Source: The Local)

The Danish government revisited its strategy toward ISIS in early March 2016. Approximately 400 Danish soldiers and seven F-16s were based at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base between June and December 2016. The troops trained Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria. Foreign minister Jensen told the media, “…[ISIS] doesn’t care about borders…If we want to push them back, if we want to defeat [ISIS], we need to fight them wherever they are.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described Denmark as “front and center” in the fight against the terror group. (Sources: Washington Post, The Local, U.S. Department of State, Danish Ministry of Defence)

As of May 2020, Denmark has over 300 soldiers deployed to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Denmark’s current contribution is primarily in capacity building as they announced a three-year stabilization program for Iraq and Syria that is to be carried out from 2019 through 2021. The program’s budget is around 60 million USD and about half will be directed towards Syria to eradicate ISIS. (Sources: Global Coalition, Danish Ministry of Defence)

On June 11, 2020, Denmark agreed to send up to 285 military personnel to NATO’s non-combat training operation in Iraq. On November 24, 2020, Denmark deployed its personnel and replaced Canada in leading the mission that trains Iraqi security forces. Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofoed announced in a statement that Denmark seeks to “reduce the risk of new refugee crises while we at the same time increase our guard against the threat from terror groups like ISIL.” Demark also agreed to send a ship and a helicopter including up to 195 staff to a European-led naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz—a global shipping route impacted by military tensions in the Middle East. The assistance was for a four-month period from August 2020. On November 6, 2020, Denmark announced it would take over command from France of the naval mission on January 21, 2021. Denmark, which is the fifth-largest seafaring nation in the world, seeks to protect the world’s maritime industry. (Sources: Reuters, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Copenhagen Post, North Atlantic Treaty Organization)


In January 2014 and 2017, and 2019 through 2020, the Danish government sent a C-130 transport aircraft to support the French military intervention in Mali. In justifying the support, then-Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt stated, “[W]e have a clear interest in the international society helping the government in Mali dealing with the rebel groupings that are trying to take over the country with support from Islamist terrorist networks.” The Danish government pledged to continue its deployment of transport aircraft between November 2019 and May 2020. (Sources: Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danish Ministry of Defence)


Between 2002 and 2013, 9,500 Danish troops were sent to Afghanistan to protect and train the Afghan military. The nearly 12-year operation cost the lives of 43 Danish soldiers. Denmark currently contributes approximately 145 personnel to the United Nation’s Resolute Support Mission, who are primarily engaged in counseling and training efforts. (Sources: Copenhagen Post, Danish Ministry of Defence)

Diplomatic and Financial Endeavors

The Danish government is a founding member of the 2011 Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF), an international initiative designed to convene world leaders to strategize counterterrorism policies. (Source: GCTF)

In September 2013, Denmark and Burkina Faso developed two pilot projects to counter violent extremism and raise awareness on drivers of extremism in West Africa and the Sahel in cooperation with the GCTF. The Danish government allocated 125 million Danish krone to the Peace and Stabilization Program for the Sahel, which focuses on dialogue and reconciliation, security sector initiatives and works against extremism, radicalization and organized crime. (Sources: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

As part of the 2010-2014 Danish Defence Agreement, the Danish government founded the “Peace and Stabilisation Fund” (PSF), as “a cross-government funding pool to support stabilisation and conflict prevention initiatives at the nexus of security and development.” The Fund aims to stabilize and rebuild “fragile” countries, as well as to counter the threat of violent extremism in those countries. Through the initiative, Denmark has contributed funding and personnel to numerous countries in East Africa and the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. In 2014, the PSF extended its geographical outreach to include programs for the Sahel region and Syria. It also provided funding to the DANIDA Assistance to Somalia initiative to “contribute to a stable Somalia that will be able to cater for its own security.” The program focused on strengthening regional conflict management capacity and efforts, reducing the levels of violent extremism through prevention and disengagement, and improving regional and government authority. (Sources: Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Whole-of-Government Steering Committee)

In 2017, PSF also supported anti-radicalization and terrorism prevention in the Middle East, and maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. About 350 million Danish krone were allocated from PSF resources to support initiatives in 2017. (Sources: Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Whole-of-Government Steering Committee)

In December 2017, the Danish government has temporarily suspended financial support for an aid project in Syria after it was reported that some of the funds went to the extremist group Nour al-Din al-Zinki. International partners, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, and Canada have also taken similar action. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, NL Times)

Denmark is also a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organization that works to combat the financing of terrorism. The FATF has recommended the adoption of various measures including the criminalization of terrorist financing, the freezing of terrorist assets, and policies designed to ensure that terrorists cannot exploit non-governmental organizations. Denmark also cooperates closely and plays a coordinating role with other Nordic financial intelligence units (FIU). (Sources: FATF, FATF)

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