Honduras says intercepted 6 Syrians on false passports in first such cases

Honduran policemen escort one of five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on Nov 18, 2015. Honduran authorities have arrested five Syrians intending to make it to the United States with stolen Greek passports
Honduran policemen escort one of five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on Nov 18, 2015. Honduran authorities have arrested five Syrians intending to make it to the United States with stolen Greek passports, triggering alarm Wednesday in the wake of the Paris attacks launched by Syria-linked jihadists.PHOTO: AFP

TEGUCIGALPA (REUTERS, AFP) - Honduran authorities said on Wednesday (Nov 19) they had intercepted a total of six Syrians travelling on doctored Greek passports in the past week, and that they were the first such cases detected in the Central American country.  

Five Syrian men were held late on Tuesday in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on arrival from Costa Rica, and had been planning to head to the United States, police said. A sixth Syrian was turned away on Friday and sent back on a plane to El Salvador.  

The Honduran government said it had involved Interpol in the investigation.

The reasons for the Syrians’ trip were not immediately known, and Honduran police were considering the possibility that they were refugees fleeing the war in Syria.

“We are not saying they are terrorists,” police spokesman, Anibal Baca, said. “They are being investigated for using false passports. It could be they are fleeing war. That is being investigated.” 

Countries involved in the Syria conflict, including the United States, have been on alert for possible attacks since the killings in Paris last Friday and the October 31 bombing of a Russian passenger jet leaving Egypt.  

Those attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group based in Iraq and Syria. 

One of the gunmen in the Paris attacks was carrying a Syrian passport used to transit through Greece, though authorities have not confirmed that he was the man in the document.  

Honduras on Monday said it had reinforced security in its ports and airports following the French attacks.  

A spokesman for the country’s Inter-institutional Security Force, Lieutenant Colonel Santos Nolasco, said that day that Honduras was part of a route to the United States often used by unauthoriSed migrants.  

This year, 12,600 foreigners were detected illegally entering Honduras, almost all of them with the aim of getting to the United States, Nolasco said.  

Those detained by authorities include nationals of Somalia, Iran, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Togo, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, as well as of other Latin American countries.