Vietnam Time

8/6/2018 7:56:23 AM

Venezuela arrests six 'terrorists' over attempted president assassination

Six "terrorists and hired killers" have been arrested in Venezuela accused of trying to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro in an alleged drone attack, the government said on Sunday (Aug 5).

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (centre) gestures between his wife Cilia Flores (left) and Defence Minister General Vladimir Padrino during a ceremony to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the National Guard in Caracas. (Juan BARRETO/AFP)

Interior and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol announced the arrests on state television, saying more could be on the way "in the coming hours."

Three soldiers were in critical condition and four more were injured in the alleged attack that involved two remote-controlled drones, Reverol said.

He described it as "a crime of terrorism and assassination" and said that the "material and intellectual authors inside and outside the country" had been identified.

Venezuela's opposition braced itself for "persecution and repression" as the armed forces vowed "unconditional" loyalty to radical socialist leader Maduro, who, standing with his wife on a reviewing stand, was unharmed in the incident.

Maduro vowed to inflict "maximum punishment" on those who tried "to assassinate me." He pointed the finger at outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and "the ultra-right wing" - a term he uses to describe domestic opposition, even as a mysterious rebel group claimed responsibility.

'WAVE OF REPRESSION'

"There will be no forgiveness," Maduro warned, for what a military statement said was an act of "barbarism in a desperate attempt to destabilise" the government.

But Nicmer Evans, a former government loyalist and now leader of the opposition Frente Amplio party, said he feared the government's measures "open the door to persecution and a wave of repression."

Those worries came as Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez voiced the military's "unconditional and unrestricted loyalty to our commander in chief."

Army general Padrino Lopez described Saturday's incident as "an aggression against the military" aimed at provoking regime change "through unconstitutional means."

Attorney General Tarek William Saab said the names of those arrested would be published on Monday.

The alleged attack involved two drones, each carrying a kilogramme of plastic explosive C4, which Reverol said on state television is "capable of causing effective damage over a 50-metre radius."

He said one drone flew over the tribune where Maduro was giving a speech but that it became "disoriented by signal-inhibiting equipment" and was thus "activated outside the assassins' planned perimeter."

The second drone lost control and crashed into a nearby building, Reverol added.

State television images showed Maduro looking up with a start after hearing a bang, as National Guardsmen lined up in the parade scattered in fright.

No drones could be seen in the television broadcast, which showed bodyguards jumping in front of Maduro to protect him with flexible ballistic shields. The broadcast was quickly cut.

Late Saturday, a rebel group calling itself the National Movement of Soldiers in T-Shirts claimed responsibility in a statement passed to U.S.-based opposition journalist Patricia Poleo, who read it on her YouTube channel.

"We cannot tolerate that the population is suffering from hunger, that the sick do not have medicine, that the currency has no value, or that the education system neither educates nor teaches, only indoctrinating communism," said the statement, accusing the regime of having "made public office an obscene way to get rich."

VNF/AFP  
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