Advertisement

6 detained after attempted drone attack during Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s speech

Click to play video: 'Six people arrested after alleged Maduro assassination attempt' Six people arrested after alleged Maduro assassination attempt
WATCH: Venezuelan authorities said Sunday six people have been detained over drone explosions the day before in an alleged assassination attempt on President Nicolas Maduro – Aug 5, 2018

Venezuela’s government said on Sunday that six people had been detained over drone explosions at an event attended by President Nicolas Maduro as his political opposition warned of a possible crackdown after he accused his adversaries of seeking to assassinate him.

State television on Saturday evening showed the socialist leader appearing startled by what seemed to be an explosion while he was giving a speech in Caracas. Seconds later, the footage panned to hundreds of soldiers chaotically scurrying out of formation.

One of the six suspects detained had a pending arrest warrant for a 2017 attack on a military base, and a second had been arrested in 2014 for participating in anti-government street protests, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said.

WATCH: Venezuelan president claims to be survivor of assassination attempt

Click to play video: 'Venezuelan president claims to be survivor of assassination attempt' Venezuelan president claims to be survivor of assassination attempt
Venezuelan president claims to be survivor of assassination attempt – Aug 5, 2018

Opposition critics said the government has in the past used such incidents as a pretext for heavy-handed actions against critics, including jailing some of the country’s best-known leaders.

Story continues below advertisement

“We warn that the government is taking advantage of this incident … to criminalize those who legitimately and democratically oppose it and deepen the repression and systematic human rights violations,” wrote the Broad Front opposition coalition in a statement published on Twitter.

Bolivar Avenue of downtown Caracas, where the incident took place, was calm on Sunday morning. Joggers and cyclists were taking up two of the lanes that are traditionally used for weekend recreation. The stage where Maduro spoke had been removed.

WATCH: Drone ‘assassination attempt’ targets Venezuela’s Maduro

Click to play video: 'Drone ‘assassination attempt’ targets Venezuela’s Maduro' Drone ‘assassination attempt’ targets Venezuela’s Maduro
Drone ‘assassination attempt’ targets Venezuela’s Maduro – Aug 5, 2018

Two witnesses in the area said on Sunday that they heard and felt an explosion in the late afternoon, then saw a drone fall out of the sky and hit a nearby building.

“I heard the first explosion, it was so strong that the buildings moved,” said Mairum Gonzalez, 45, a preschool teacher. “I went to the balcony and I saw the little plane … it hit the building and smoke started to come out.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ‘This was an attempt to kill me,’ Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro declares after drone attack

A second witness, who lives in the building that was struck by the drone but asked not to be identified, described a similar sequence of events.

Firemen appeared quickly on the scene to put out the blaze, but were not told what the cause of it was, said Caracas Fire Department Official Jose Oropeza.

WATCH: Building sustains light damage by drone involved in explosion near Venezuelan presidential event as suspects arrested

Click to play video: 'Building sustains light damage by drone involved in explosion near Venezuelan presidential event as suspects arrested' Building sustains light damage by drone involved in explosion near Venezuelan presidential event as suspects arrested
Building sustains light damage by drone involved in explosion near Venezuelan presidential event as suspects arrested – Aug 5, 2018

“The alarm was sounded at 5:40 and we went to the fire,” said Oropeza. “It was a routine fire, that’s all.”

A shadowy and little-known group called the National Movement of Soldiers with T-Shirts, which claimed responsibility for the incident, sent a statement wishing a speedy recovery for seven wounded soldiers but vowed further resistance.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Venezuelan president Maduro evaded drone assassination attempt: authorities

“We will not cease our struggle until we achieve the restoration of the constitution and of democracy,” read the statement.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the involvement of the group, which in the past has said it is linked to anti-government street protesters known as “The Resistance.”

On Twitter, Maduro ally Freddy Bernal sent mug shots of seven people who appeared to be in their early twenties, urging the Venezuelan people to search for “these traitors.”

Opposition critics accuse Maduro of fabricating or exaggerating security incidents to distract from hyperinflation and Soviet-style product shortages.

Leopoldo Lopez, formerly mayor of Caracas’ district of Chacao, for example, is under house arrest for his role in 2014 street protests that Maduro described as a coup attempt but which his adversaries insisted were a form of free expression.

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 OPEC member is struggling under the collapse of a once-prosperous socialist system, with millions now struggling to eat or find medicine — causing a growing exodus of citizens.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Speech by Venezuela’s Maduro cut short, soldiers seen running

Click to play video: 'Speech by Venezuela’s Maduro cut short, soldiers seen running' Speech by Venezuela’s Maduro cut short, soldiers seen running
Speech by Venezuela’s Maduro cut short, soldiers seen running – Aug 4, 2018

During the course of his five-year rule, Maduro, who blames the country’s problems on an “economic war” led by adversaries, has often announced having foiled military plots against him that he says are backed by Washington.

“I have no doubt that everything points to the Right, the Venezuelan ultra-Right,” Maduro said in a broadcast. “Maximum punishment! And there will be no forgiveness.”

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

Sponsored content