Germany's interior minister said Tuesday three Syrian men believed to have been sent to Germany by the Islamic State group appear to have used the same smugglers and received passports from the same workshop as some of those involved in the Paris attacks.
The three men were arrested in northern Germany on Tuesday. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said they had been under observation for months and there were no indications of any concrete plans for an attack.
Federal prosecutors said the three are accused of coming to Germany in mid-November at the behest of IS "in order either to carry out an assignment they had already received or to keep themselves ready for further instructions." They are suspected of membership in a foreign terrorist organization.
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The men were arrested in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's northernmost state, and their apartments searched, prosecutors added. They were identified only as Mahir Al-H., 17, Mohamed A., 26, and Ibrahim M., 18, in keeping with German privacy rules.
The three traveled to Germany via Turkey and Greece, the route used by most migrants to Europe last year. Mahir Al-H. joined IS in Raqqa, Syria, earlier last year and received weapons and explosives training, prosecutors said, before he and the other two suspects in October told an IS official responsible for "operations and attacks outside the IS area" that they would travel to Europe.
The three were provided with passports by IS and were given a "high four-figure sum" of cash in U.S. dollars as well as cellphones with a pre-installed communication program, prosecutors said in a statement.
The Federal Criminal Police Office said that six locations in two German states were searched Tuesday. It said that, as well as the arrests, "extensive material" was seized as evidence.
The office noted that the attacks in Paris and Brussels over the past year showed that IS has used the migrant flow to send people to Europe. It said that it knows of more than 400 tips about people among the migrants who might have a terrorist background, but most turned out to be wrong. However, more than 60 investigations were opened.
In July, two attacks were carried out in Germany by asylum-seekers who arrived over the past two years and claimed by IS. Five people were wounded in an ax rampage on a train near Wuerzburg and 15 in a bombing outside a bar in Ansbach. Both of the attackers were killed.
Along with two other attacks in the same weeklong period that were unrelated to Islamic extremism, they put the country on edge and stoked tensions over the arrival last year of hundreds of thousands of migrants.