Germany arrests three with suspected IS links

  • 14/09/2016
German special police forces escort a Syrian suspected of being members of Islamic State (Reuters)
German special police forces escort a Syrian suspected of being members of Islamic State (Reuters)

Three Syrian men believed to have been sent to Germany by Islamic State as a possible "sleeper cell" have been arrested during raids.

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," federal prosecutors said.

Their arrests followed raids at refugee homes in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's northernmost state. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the men had been under observation for months.

"This may have been a sleeper cell," he told reporters.

De Maiziere said the suspects appear to have made it to Europe through the same channels as two men who blew themselves up outside France's national stadium in November in the Paris attacks claimed by IS.

"Everything points to the same smuggling organisation as with the Paris attackers having brought these three who were arrested to Germany," he said. "And everything points to the travel documents having come from the same workshop."

Prosecutors identified the suspects only as Mahir Al-H, 17, Mohamed A, 26, and Ibrahim M, 18.

The three travelled 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 US dollars as well as mobile phones 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.