A drone loaded with explosives detonated near a military event where Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was giving a speech, but he escaped unharmed in what the embattled leader called an assassination attempt.
Seven people were wounded on Saturday in the apparent attack, which came as Maduro celebrated the National Guard’s 81st anniversary in the capital, Caracas.
Maduro later said “everything points” to a right-wing plot that an initial investigation suggested was linked to Colombia and the US state of Florida, where many Venezuelan exiles live. Several perpetrators were caught, he said, without elaborating.
“This was an assassination attempt, they tried to assassinate me,” Maduro said in a televised address. “That drone was coming for me but there was a shield of love. I am sure I will live for many more years.”
A little-known group called the National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts claimed responsibility for the attack. In a series of posts on social media, the group said it planned to fly two drones but snipers shot them down.
“We demonstrated that they are vulnerable. We didn’t have success today, but it’s just a question of time,” said the group.
It said it was founded in 2014 to bring together all of Venezuela’s “groups of resistance”.
Attorney-General Tarek William Saab said the attempted assassination targeted not only Maduro, but rather the military’s entire high command on stage with the president.
Prosecutors have already launched their investigation and obtained critical details from the suspects in custody, said Saab, adding he would give more details Monday.
“We are in the midst of a wave of civil war in Venezuela,” Saab said.
State television was broadcasting Maduro’s speech at the National Guard anniversary live when the incident took place.
“We are going to bet for the good of our country,” Maduro declared triumphantly moments before the sound of an explosion pierced the air. “The hour of the economic recovery has come.”
Seconds later Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, looked up to the sky and winced.
The cameras then turned to a wide shot of uniformed military officers standing at attention in neat lines as they broke rank and began running. The transmission then cut off. Images shared on social media showed officers surrounding Maduro with what appeared to be black bullet-proof shields as they escorted him from the site.
Smoke could be seen coming out a building window.
Firefighters at the scene of the blast disputed the government’s version of events, The Associated Press reported. The news agency cited three local officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying the incident was actually a gas tank explosion inside an apartment near the site of Maduro’s speech.
The president didn’t comment on the firefighters’ accounts.
Maduro named Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as being behind the attack, but gave no evidence to back that up.
“The name of Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack … the initial investigations point to Bogota,” Maduro said.
A Colombian government source told Reuters news agency that Maduro’s allegation was “absurd”, and that Santos was celebrating his granddaughter’s baptism on Saturday.
NEWS12 hours ago
National Theatre’s General Manager Dies In Auto Crash
NEWS10 hours ago
Ekiti To Drive Tourism With Local Festivals
Fashion and Style12 hours ago
Fashion Is Who You Are – Adanna
NEWS22 hours ago
Set Leading Edge Agenda For Ogun, FBI Oyefeso Urges Committee
NEWS15 hours ago
Islamic State Claims Responsibility For Sri Lanka Bombings
NEWS18 hours ago
I’m A Major Beneficiary Of Fawehinmi’s Struggles, Says Uba Sani
NEWS20 hours ago
NAF Aircraft Neutralises Several Bandits In Zamfara
NEWS16 hours ago
College Owner In Court For Allegedly Running An Illegal Institution