Venezuelan President survives 'drone assassination attempt', blames Colombia

IANS
Sunday, 5 August 2018

Maduro was evacuated from a stage on Saturday evening during a speech at an event to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the Bolivarian National Guard

Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro survived what he called an "attempt against his life" involving explosive drones, blaming Colombia's outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos and far-right elements for the foiled assassination bid.

Maduro was evacuated from a stage on Saturday evening during a speech at an event to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the Bolivarian National Guard here after what authorities concluded was a "failed" and attempted "terrorist attack against the President", reports CNN.

While he was in the middle of a pledge to lead the country toward an economic recovery, two drones loaded with explosives went off near the podium from where the President was speaking, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez confirmed to the media.

Photos of the incident showed bodyguards jumping in front of Maduro with shields and one uniformed officer clutching a bleeding wound on his head. Videos also showed First Lady Cilia Flores appearing frightened.

Later in an address to the nation on state TV on Saturday night, Maduro said: "To all of our friends in the world, I am fine, I am alive...

"A flying object exploded near me, a big explosion. Seconds later there was a second explosion."

He initially thought the explosions were fireworks which were part of the parade.

Maduro said the investigation into the incident started immediately and that some of those involved in the attack had been captured and charged, although he did not specify the charges against them.

"The preliminary investigation indicates that many of those responsible for the attack, the financiers and planners, live in the US in the state of Florida," Maduro said.

"I hope the (President Donald) Trump administration is willing to fight terrorist groups that commit attacks in peaceful countries in our continent, in this case Venezuela."

On blaming Colombia for the attack, Maduro said: "All the investigations point to Bogota... They have tried to kill me today."

The Venezuelan government has long blamed Colombia for plotting overthrows.

In response, the Colombian government said there was "no basis" to Maduro's allegations.

"This is baseless. The President (Santos) is engaged in the baptism of his granddaughter, Celeste, and not overthrowing foreign governments," a source from the Colombian President's office told the media in Bogota.

Meanwhile, an unknown group, "Soldados de Franela" emerged on Twitter, claiming responsibility for the attack, which it termed as "Operation Phoenix", according to Efe news.

The group claimed to be a group of military and civilian patriots "loyal to the people of Venezuela".

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