"There is a clear link to the so-called Islamic State [Isis], to this terrorist organisation", de Maiziere told broadcaster ARD.
"In fact, [the suspects] received instructions and orders from someone who left Germany for the region [controlled by Islamic State]".
Earlier, German Bild and Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspapers as well as the public broadcaster WDR reported, citing unidentified security sources, that an Islamic State fighter of German origin contacted a group of radicals inside Germany and overseas and motivated them to carry out attacks on the shopping mall.
He said police had been tipped off late on Friday by other security agencies.
But they added they could give no further details about the nature of the threat at the Limbecker Platz centre, in Essen. One was questioned after police searched an apartment in the town.
Officers claimed the closure was due to "concrete indications about a possible attack". "This was prevented", de Maiziere said.More news: Durban pulled as 2022 Commonwealth Games host
More news: Syrian Kurdish forces confident they can capture IS 'capital'
More news: Baylor Track & Field: Women Finish 14th At NCAA Indoor Championships
Police ordered a shopping mall in the western German city of Essen not to open Saturday after receiving credible tips of an imminent attack.
Security officials were working "intensely" to discover more information, the statement added.
It is one of the biggest in Germany with more than 200 stores and attracts up to 60,000 people on a regular Saturday, according to the shopping centre's website.
Germany has been on the edge following a series of attacks in public places over the past year.
Germany has been on high alert since last December's attack in Berlin, when a Tunisian national hijacked a truck and rammed it into a crowd, killing 12 people.