Six arrested in Venezuela after drone attack

Six arrested in Venezuela after drone attack

Six arrested in Venezuela after drone attack

Adding to the confusion, a little known group calling itself Soldiers in T-shirts claimed responsibility, saying it planned to fly two drones loaded with explosives at the president, but government soldiers shot them down before reaching its target.

USA national security advisor John Bolton insisted there was "no United States government involvement" and even suggested that the incident could have been "a pretext set up by the regime itself".

The suspects launched two drones laden with explosives over an outdoor rally Maduro was holding in downtown Caracas to commemorate the National Guard, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said.

CNN and other outlets broadcast live footage of Maduro looking up and of his wife, standing nearby, noticeably flinching as the explosives detonated.

Moscow sided with Maduro's regime after his government faced worldwide isolation when close to 130 people were killed in anti-regime protests previous year.

The attack highlights Maduro's challenges in maintaining control over the OPEC nation, where widespread food and medicine shortages have fuelled outrage and despair everywhere from hillside slums to military barracks.

Venezuela's defense minister, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, said attackers were trying to take out the government's entire top leadership along with Maduro. Several vehicles have been seized and hotel rooms searched as part of the investigation.

On Saturday, a policeman who requested anonymity told AFP that drones may have been released from a nearby apartment that suffered a fire after one exploded.

One witness showed The Associated Press cellphone video of a drone crashing into a building.

Video of the scene shows Maduro speaking, followed by two explosions.

"It was so strong the building shook", she said.

In this photo provided by the Miraflores Presidential Palace, President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a event marking the 81st anniversary of the National Guard, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, August 4, 2019.

Within seconds, Maduro said he heard a second blast and pandemonium broke out. Mr Maduro claimed he saw a "flying device" that exploded and said: 'This was an attempt to kill me'.

He said the Venezuelan political far right in collaboration with the Colombian far right and Colombian President Santos were behind the attack.

And he said the attack's goal "is what US imperialism is seeking" - "a Venezuela in conflict, in civil war".

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday", Bolton said that if Venezuela had "hard information" of a potential violation of United States law, "we will take a serious look at it".

The Broad Front, a coalition of opposition groups in Venezuela, accused the government of making an allegation without proof.

The group admitted the failure of what it called "Operation Phoenix" and did not confirm if the action was an attempt on Maduro's life. The AP could not independently verify the authenticity of the message.

"It was not successful today, but it is just a matter of time", the group said in a tweet.

Maduro's allies counter that the opposition has a history of involvement in military conspiracies, most notably in the 2002 coup that briefly toppled socialist leader Hugo Chavez. The opposition's most popular candidates were barred from running.

Both Cuban leaders expressed their "full solidarity and unconditional support for President Maduro", it said.

"We warn that this confused event could be used as an excuse to repress the constitutional rights of the people to continue protesting for the defence of their rights", the statement said late Saturday.

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