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Honduras detains five Syrians ‘likely headed to U.S.’ with fake passports

Posted at 6:12 PM, Nov 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-18 18:22:59-05

(CNN) — Honduran police Wednesday said they detained five Syrian men who traveled with fake passports to the Central American country’s capital.

“These citizens will be taken away and will be investigated. We already have confirmation that they had passports that were stolen in Greece,” said Aníbal Baca, a spokesman for Honduras’ Police Investigation Unit.

“We suppose that they were going to illegally travel by land all the way to the United States,” Baca told reporters. He did not provide details on why police believe the group was planning to go to the United States but said that investigators would do more digging in the coming hours to confirm the group’s travel plans.

Greek authorities and Interpol were involved in Honduras detaining the men, Baca said. Before the men had arrived, they had traveled to Lebanon, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica, he said.

Baca didn’t specify why authorities had been tracking the men. They will be presented to prosecutors to be investigated on charges of falsification of documents, he said.

The arrests come amid increased international scrutiny of Syrian migrants amid concerns that one terrorist in last week’s Paris attacks may have used the sea of refugees flooding into Europe as a cover for his travel.

Earlier this week, authorities in St. Maarten detained three people who they said were of Syrian descent and were traveling with false Greek passports, according to information provided by St. Maarten authorities to U.S. law enforcement, a U.S. official said.

None of the detentions have been tied to terrorism. Many migrants with no ties to terrorism travel on false documents around the world.

New U.S. effort to flag fake documents

It’s unclear whether U.S. authorities played any role in the Honduras case.

But the United States is sharing information more widely from databases of false travel documents with countries in the region, the U.S. official said.

Partly in the wake of the Paris attacks, U.S. authorities are helping to coordinate a new effort to flag suspected fake passports and identity documents that terrorists could exploit to travel, the official said.

Intelligence and homeland security officials are increasingly alarmed at evidence that terrorist groups are using false passports to hide their travel, the official said.

Sharing information from the databases, the official said, can help prevent people from using migrant flows through Latin American countries to get into the United States. It’s also part of renewed U.S. efforts to share more information with friendly countries so they can use it to enforce their own security, the official said.