german police policija njemačka.jpg
Photograph: EPA/SVEN HOPPE

Three Syrians were arrested Thursday in Germany on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in Dusseldorf on behalf of the Islamic State terrorist group, federal prosecutors said.

The terrorist plot foresaw two militants blowing themselves up with explosive vests in the western German city's historic centre and the remaining men killing as many people as possible with firearms.

Hamza C, Mahood B and Adb Arahman A K, whose full names were withheld in line with German privacy laws, were arrested in three different German states, prosecutors said in a statement.

One of the three Syrians arrested had travelled to Germany as part of the mass of refugees that entered the nation late last summer, officials told dpa.

The refugees arrived in Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel's controversial decision to open the nation's borders to migrants and refugees, which she said was aimed at averting a humanitarian disaster in Europe.

The authorities told dpa that the suspect, who travelled to Germany via Greece and Turkey, had made a request for asylum after registering at a refugee shelter in the eastern town of Bliesdorf in September last year.

However, they said that there had not been a decision on his asylum application.

He is then thought to have disappeared for about five months before suddenly resurfacing at the refugee home last Wednesday to collect his 390-euro a month benefit for refugees.

A fourth suspect, Saleh A, is in police custody in France and the extradition process is under way, the statement from prosecutors added. Saleh A was detained in Paris earlier this year, and revealed the terrorist plot to French authorities on February 1.

There is no evidence to indicate the men had been close to carrying out the attack on Dusseldorf, German prosecutors said.

The militants are aged between 25 and 31. All four are suspected of membership of Islamic State, while Adb Arahman A K is also thought to have been involved in the activities of the al-Nusra Front, a Syrian opposition group that is considered a terrorist organization.

Responding to the arrests, a spokeswoman for Germany's Interior Ministry said that the terrorist threat in the country remains high. "Like other European countries, Germany is in the cross hairs of international terrorism," she said.

German prosecutors and police have conducted a series of raids in recent months targeting Islamists sent to Germany on behalf of Islamic State.

Thus far, there has been no major terrorist attack on German soil.

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