Honduras says Syrians not part of terror cell, want refuge in U.S

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5 Men with Fake Passports in Honduras Stopped

Five Syrian men detained in Honduras for traveling on doctored Greek passports do not belong to "any terrorist cell", Honduran authorities said on Thursday, adding that four were university students.

They said the five had been fleeing conflict in Syria and had been trying to get to the United States when they were stopped and detained.


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Honduran police said there were no signs of any links to last week's suicide bombings and shootings in Paris that killed 129 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The five were part of a wider group of seven Syrian nationals who acquired forged passports in Brazil and then went by land to Argentina on their way north, a U.S. government source familiar with the case said. The source also said there was no evidence to suggest the men were militants.


See photos of the men detained in Honduras:

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Honduras detains Syrians bound for US with doctored Greek passports
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Honduras says Syrians not part of terror cell, want refuge in U.S
Honduran policemen escort one of five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on November 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. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Honduran policemen escort one of five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on November 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. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Honduran policemen escort one of five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on November 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. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Honduran policemen escort one of five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on November 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. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Honduran policemen escort five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on November 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. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Honduran policeman (L background) stands next to four of five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on November 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. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
View of two of five Syrian citizens arrested at the Tocontin international airport in Tegucigalpa on November 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. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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They took advantage of the porous Triple Frontier near well-traveled tourist destination Iguazu Falls where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet, the source said. The three countries belong to the Mercosur customs bloc, where you can cross borders with simple identity documents rather than passports.

"They probably spent the majority of their time in Brazil, because that's where they got the documents. They made their way from Brazil through Argentina pretty quickly," the U.S. government source told Reuters. "There's a human smuggling cell that is moving people through the region."

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Five of the men were detained late on Tuesday in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on arrival from Costa Rica, police said. They said passports had been doctored to replace the photographs with those of the Syrians.

A Honduran official said the five men detained there had spent several days in Costa Rica before flying into Honduras.

A sixth man was turned away from Honduras on Friday on arrival by plane from El Salvador, and was sent back. In Paraguay, police detained a seventh Syrian man who was traveling on a stolen Greek passport.

The source said that the Syrian detained in Paraguay was caught because his fake passport was missing some of the vaccinations required.

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"They made it through and these are the ones we caught. We got lucky on these guys. Think about the ones we didn't' catch. It's a huge concern," the source said.

Separately, members of two Syrian families turned themselves in to U.S. authorities in Laredo, Texas, at the Mexican border, U.S. Homeland Security officials said on Thursday.

The Department of Homeland Security said two men, two women and four children "presented themselves" at the port of entry and were taken into custody by Border Patrol agents before being handed over to immigration officials for processing.

(With reporting by Hugh Bronstein in Buenos Aires, Caroline Stauffer in Brazil and Gabriel Stargardter in Mexico City; Editing by Simon Gardner, Chizu Nomiyama and Ross Colvin)

RELATED: See recent raids across Europe in response to the Paris attacks

35 PHOTOS
Anti-terrorism raids and arrests across Europe after Paris attacks
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Honduras says Syrians not part of terror cell, want refuge in U.S
An armed police man patrols at the Grand Place in Brussels on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. Two people have been arrested in Belgium on suspicion of planning attacks in Brussels during the holidays, the federal prosecutor's office said Tuesday. A source close to the investigation said the Belgian capital's main square, thronged this time of year with holiday shoppers and strollers, was one of the suspected targets. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 29: Security forces of Belgium stand guard as two people arrested on suspicion of terrorism in Brussels, Belgium on December 29, 2015. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 29: Security forces of Belgium stand guard as two people arrested on suspicion of terrorism in Brussels, Belgium on December 29, 2015. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
French police officers monitor the border between France and Belgium in Neuville-en-Ferrain, northern France, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. Belgian police launched more raids in Brussels and beyond early Monday, detaining five more people as they continued their hunt for a fugitive suspect in the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 20: On the street where the raid took place in the Saint Denis area of Paris, and where three people died, including the ringleader of the terrorist attack, police man the security barrier as the investigation at the apartment continues. A third body was found in the rubble today. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Masked police officers guard the 'Seituna' cultural center in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Police raided the mosque after the arrest of two people suspected of belonging to an Islamist extremist group. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Police lead away a man during a raid in Brussels on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
ALSDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Heavily-armed members of the German SEK special forces police unit stand outside a house in Schaufenberger Strasse street where they possibly made two arrests on November 17, 2015 in Alsdorf, Germany. Police announced earlier today that a unit of the SEK special forces had in a separate incident arrested two men and one woman at 9:30 this morning in connection with the recent terror attacks in Paris in the parking lot of a Jobcenter employment office. So far it is unclear who the suspects are though initial reports indicate Salah Abdeslam, a brother of a man who took part in the attacks and whom police are searching for across Europe, is not among them. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
ALSDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Heavily-armed members of the German SEK special forces police unit stand outside a house in Schaufenberger Strasse street where they possibly made two arrests on November 17, 2015 in Alsdorf, Germany. Police announced earlier today that a unit of the SEK special forces had in a separate incident arrested two men and one woman at 9:30 this morning in connection with the recent terror attacks in Paris in the parking lot of a Jobcenter employment office. So far it is unclear who the suspects are though initial reports indicate Salah Abdeslam, a brother of a man who took part in the attacks and whom police are searching for across Europe, is not among them. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
Policemen check the identity of motorists as part of security measures set following terrorist attacks in Paris on November 17, 2015 at the French-Belgium border in Neuville-en-Ferrain. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
ALSDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Police officers arrive at Schaufenberger Strasse street where they possibly made two arrests on November 17, 2015 in Alsdorf, Germany. Police announced earlier today that a unit of the SEK special forces had in a separate incident arrested two men and one woman at 9:30 this morning in connection with the recent terror attacks in Paris in the parking lot of a Jobcenter employment office. So far it is unclear who the suspects are though initial reports indicate Salah Abdeslam, a brother of a man who took part in the attacks and whom police are searching for across Europe, is not among them. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
Police officers patrol at the main railway station in Berlin, on November 17, 2015. Security has been tightned in Germany following the string of coordinated attacks in and around Paris late November 13, 2015 left at least 129 people dead, in the worst such violence in France's history. AFP PHOTO / DPA / KAY NIETFELD +++ GERMANY OUT +++ (Photo credit should read KAY NIETFELD/AFP/Getty Images)
ALSDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Police officers arrive at Schaufenberger Strasse street where they possibly made two arrests on November 17, 2015 in Alsdorf, Germany. Police announced earlier today that a unit of the SEK special forces had in a separate incident arrested two men and one woman at 9:30 this morning in connection with the recent terror attacks in Paris in the parking lot of a Jobcenter employment office. So far it is unclear who the suspects are though initial reports indicate Salah Abdeslam, a brother of a man who took part in the attacks and whom police are searching for across Europe, is not among them. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
Policemen check the identity of motorists as part of security measures set following terrorist attacks in Paris on November 17, 2015 at the French-Belgium border in Neuville-en-Ferrain. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgium special force officers us a camera as they prepare to enter a house in the Rue Delaunoy in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean of Brussels, on November 16, 2015, several days after a series of deadly attacks on the French capital Paris. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to the November 13 attacks in Paris which left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM =BELGIUM OUT= (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgium special force officers prepare to enter a house in the Rue Delaunoy in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean of Brussels, on November 16, 2015, several days after a series of deadly attacks on the French capital Paris. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to the November 13 attacks in Paris which left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM =BELGIUM OUT= (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgium special force officers climb the outside of a house as they prep[are to enter in the Rue Delaunoy in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean of Brussels, on November 16, 2015, several days after a series of deadly attacks on the French capital Paris. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to the November 13 attacks in Paris which left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM =BELGIUM OUT= (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers look on as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Anti terrorism police officers enter a building during a raid in the Mirail district in Toulouse, southwestern France, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls says there have been 150 police raids overnight in the country. (AP Photo) FRANCE OUT
A member of the special police forces takes a picture outside a house being searched in the Rue Delaunoy in Brussels on November 16, 2015. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Several terrorist attacks in Paris, France, have left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/BENOIT DOPPAGNE (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
Security forces personnel walk past during ongoing operations in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police men prepare for a raid in Brussels on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. A major action with heavily armed police is underway in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek amid a manhunt for a suspect of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Police escort a woman away from the scene as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / BENOIT DOPPAGNE (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavily armed special forces stand guard outside a house being searched in the Rue Delaunoy in Brussels on November 16, 2015. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Several terrorist attacks in Paris, France, have left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Police men prepare for a raid in Brussels on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. A major action with heavily armed police is underway in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek amid a manhunt for a suspect of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Police officers man a cordon as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavily armed special forces stand guard outside a house being searched in the Rue Delaunoy in Brussels on November 16, 2015. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Several terrorist attacks in Paris, France, have left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/BENOIT DOPPAGNE (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
Special force officers move into position outside a house being searched in the Rue Delaunoy in Brussels on November 16, 2015. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Several terrorist attacks in Paris, France, have left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM =BELGIUM OUT= (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
An anti-bomb robot is pictured on the scene of a bomb alert at the Rue des Deux Eglises (Tweekerkenstraat street) in downtown Brussels on November 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BELGA PHOTO / ERIC LALMAND ** Belgium Out ** (Photo credit should read ERIC LALMAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers man a cordon as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers man a cordon as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
This image taken from BFMTV, shows a car being towed away accompanied by security vehicles, in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris, overnight Saturday/Sunday Nov. 14/15, 2015. A Seat car with suspected links to the Paris attacks has been found by police in Montreuil. An official could not immediately confirm if this was the same black Seat linked to the gun attacks on the Le Carillon bar and the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in Rue Alibert in the city's 10th district. (BFMTV via AP)
A man is detained by a police officer after a raid in the Mirail district in Toulouse, southwestern France, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls says there have been 150 police raids overnight in the country. (AP Photo) FRANCE OUT
Belgian police cordon off a street during a police raid in connection with the November 13 deadly attacks in Paris, in Brussels' Molenbeek district on November 14, 2015. Several people were arrested in Brussels on November 14 during police raids connected to the attacks in Paris, Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said. Geens said on RTBF television that these arrests in the capital's Molenbeek neighbourhood 'can be seen in connection with a grey Polo car rented in Belgium' found near the concert hall in the French capital where scores of people were killed. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE = BELGIUM OUT = (Photo credit should read JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE/AFP/Getty Images)
A car is towed during a police raid in Brussels' Molenbeek district on November 14, 2015, in connection with the November 13 deadly attacks in Paris. Several people were arrested in Brussels on November 14 during police raids connected to the attacks in Paris, Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said. Geens said on RTBF television that these arrests in the capital's Molenbeek neighbourhood 'can be seen in connection with a grey Polo car rented in Belgium' found near the concert hall in the French capital where scores of people were killed. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE = BELGIUM OUT = (Photo credit should read JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE/AFP/Getty Images)
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