Adding fuel to the controversy over Germany’s refugee crisis, special police forces arrested three Syrian men at asylum seekers homes in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany Tuesday on suspicions that they were planning a terrorist attack on behalf of the Islamic State.
“Media reports said the men came to Germany disguised as refugees last year and were awaiting orders from jihadist superiors in their homeland about what and when to strike,” the UK’s Express reported.
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The Syrians have been identified as Mahir Al-H. aged 17, Mohamed A., 26, and Ibrahim M., 18, with their surnames redacted due to German privacy laws. The men were taken into custody along with their cell phones and computers.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the Syrians are believed to be connected to the same organization that smuggled in the perpetrators of the deadly Paris attacks in November last year. The suspects came to Germany via Turkey and Greece in November 2015 using fake passports created by ISIS, alongside two of the Paris attackers who subsequently killed themselves in a suicide bombing.
Amid fears that the three Syrians were part of a wider ISIS “sleeper cell” connected to the Paris attackers, German police dispersed in 200 vehicles Tuesday morning to search an additional six apartments and collect related evidence in the region.
European security officials estimated there are 30 to 40 suspected ISIS terrorists who supported the Paris attacks who remain at large, CNN reported last week.
De Maiziere acknowledged concerns that the wave of 1.2 million migrants who came to Germany over the past year may have brought in people under the influence of ISIS.
“The terror threat now stems from foreign hit teams as well as fanatical lone wolves in Germany,” de Maiziere told Bild newspaper. “The hit teams are secretly smuggled into Europe and prepare their actions without being noticed, as we saw with the attacks in Paris and Brussels.”
De Maiziere admitted “it’s even more difficult to uncover the fanatical lone wolves.”
“Unfortunately, there is a real and present danger from both threats,” he said.