Three Syrians who entered Germany as migrants have been arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic State and may have links to those who carried out the Paris terrorist attacks last year, the authorities said on Tuesday.
Thomas de Maizière, the German interior minister, said the travel documents the men were carrying when they were arrested on Tuesday had been issued by the same authority as ones found on some of the men who carried out the attacks in and around Paris in November. The authorities also said that the three Syrians appeared to have used the same smugglers to enter Germany and to apply for asylum as some of those involved in the terrorist assaults in France.
“It could be that this was a sleeper cell,” Mr. de Maizière told reporters.
While there was no indication the three had been planning a specific attack, prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence to arrest the men on suspicion of membership in a foreign terrorist organization.
The German security authorities have been on high alert since two young men who entered the country as migrants carried out separate attacks in Bavaria in July, wounding dozens. Both attacks appeared linked to or inspired by the Islamic State, the authorities said.
The three men arrested on Tuesday were identified only by their first names and last initials, in keeping with German privacy laws. They entered the country in November by traveling through Turkey and Greece and had been living in refugee shelters north of Hamburg, the German news media reported.
In October, the suspects “pledged to an Islamic State operative responsible for operations and attacks outside of Islamic State-held territory to travel to Europe,” where they were to carry out a planned attack or await instructions, prosecutors said.