DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said the U.S. should bar refugees from war-torn Syria because they are "infiltrated" with Muslim extremists who seek to harm America.
The comments come as Carson has taken an increasingly aggressive stance toward Muslims, and after rival Donald Trump pledged he would support deporting Syrian Muslims from the U.S.
"To bring into this country groups infiltrated with jihadists makes no sense," Carson told about 150 people at the Des Moines Rotary Club. "Why would you do something like that?"
Instead, Carson recommended that the U.S. help settle Syrian refugees in the Middle East, in places such as Turkey. In Carson's view, the U.S. could assist financially but not open its doors. He did not explain how U.S. aid could be steered to innocent refugees without falling into the hands of the extremists he believes are among them.
Germany's top security official said Friday that authorities had found no cases of terrorists with instructions to carry out attacks in the country mixing into the flow of incoming migrants.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said authorities had received tips from intelligence services that this could happen, but so far such concerns haven't been confirmed.
Carson later told reporters that, despite the German official's comments, terrorists "would be fools not to" try to enter the United States with Syrian refugees.
"At some point you have to use common sense and judgment," Carson said. "If you are part of the global jihadist movement, and you see large numbers of people from your area moving into the United States, wouldn't you want to infiltrate them?"
Carson's comments echo Trump, who said Wednesday, "If I win, they're going back," referring to Muslim Syrian refugees.
In an interview recorded Thursday for airing Friday on Fox News Channel's "Hannity," Trump said that if Syrians were allowed to come to the U.S., "it could be one of the greatest coups of all time."
Speaking of the huge numbers of refugees being welcomed into Germany, Trump said, "They're going to have revolutions in Germany because the German people are not exactly thrilled with what's going on."
Carson has taken an increasingly skeptical view of Muslims in recent days, as his political fortunes have improved. Carson now finds himself among the top contenders in national Republican preference polls. Carson reported raising an impressive $20 million for his campaign in the third quarter of the year.
Carson has also launched a petition challenging the tax exempt status of the largest Muslim advocacy group, part of an escalating rift with the U.S. Muslim community.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations last month called for Carson to quit the presidential race after he said a Muslim should not serve as president. He has since clarified his position, stating he wouldn't support a radical Muslim who did not support the Constitution. He says the same standard should apply to a Supreme Court justice.
Despite anxiousness among some Republicans about the appearance of intolerance in a party trying to reach more minority voters, Carson's team has said his approach works to his advantage in segments of the GOP electorate, especially in Iowa.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Trump's comments were made Wednesday, not Thursday.