Tegucigalpa (AFP) - 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.
The Syrians were arrested on Tuesday as they flew into Toncontin airport serving the Honduran capital and failed to make it past airport security checks, a police spokesman, Anibal Baca, told reporters.
"Five Syrian citizens have been detained and will be taken to our offices to be investigated because it is suspected they are carrying false documents, passports stolen in Greece," Baca said.
They had traveled by air from Syria to Lebanon, then to Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica and on to Honduras.
From there they were to make their way to Honduras' second city of San Pedro Sula with the aim of going overland through Guatemala, then Mexico and on to the United States, Baca told AFP.
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," 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 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 unauthorized 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.