Doubts raised over ‘exploding drone attack on Maduro’

Security personnel surround Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro during an incident as he was giving a speech in Caracas Venezuela Saturday Aug. 4 2018. Drones armed with explosives detonated near Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as he gave a spe

In a television address, Maduro personally blamed Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos of involvement in the plot in collusion with Venezuelan exiles in Florida, without presenting any evidence for the claim.

Venezuelan activists in Miami expressed concern on Sunday that an alleged drone attack on Venezuela's leader could be used by the Maduro government to embark on a new wave of repression against opposition groups in the country.

Video footage of the incident, shown on Venezuelan television, captured the moment the explosions went off before Maduro and his wife could be seen looking to the sky in confusion.

Officials say seven members of the National Guard were injured, three gravely.

Mr Maduro accused neighbouring Colombia and elements within the U.S. of instigating "a right-wing plot" to kill him.

The thwarted attack comes as Venezuela is reeling from a worsening economic and humanitarian crisis and Maduro has grown increasingly isolated.

Néstor Reverol said they were part of a group that loaded two drones with explosives and set them off during a military parade in the capital Caracas.

An investigation was launched immediately after the incident, . and reports say several people believed to have been behind the attack have already been captured and charged.

One of those arrested was wanted in connection with an earlier attack on a military installation, Reverol said. He said the drone fell to the ground and exploded, igniting a fire in an apartment. Saab told CNN he saw a drone filming the event explode. Mairum Gonzalez said she heard a thundering explosion and ran in terror to her fifth-floor balcony.

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On Saturday night, in a televised speech hours after the attack, Maduro blamed "ultra-right Venezuelans in alliance with ultra-right Colombians" for the attack, singling out Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as responsible. Moments later she heard a second explosion and saw black smoke rising.

USA national security adviser John Bolton told Fox News in an interview on Sunday that the United States was not involved in the blast.

At one point Saturday, Maduro asked Trump to arrest the "terrorists".

"If the government of Venezuela has hard information that they want to present to us that would show a potential violation of U.S. criminal law, we will take a serious look at it", he added.

In the midst of near-daily protests a year ago, a rogue police officer flew a stolen helicopter over the capital and launched grenades at several government buildings.

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".

"But in the meantime, I think what we really should focus on is the corruption and oppression in the Maduro regime in Venezuela". The authenticity of the message could not be independently verified, and the organization did not respond to a message from the AP.

He added that the armed forces "absolutely repudiate this barbarism in a desperate attempt to destabilize" the government.

A year ago, four months of street protests flared against his authority that were put down by robust action from the army, the National Guard and police, resulting in 125 people killed.

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