US denies role as Venezuela’s Maduro blames ‘assassination’ attempt on Colombia

Screengrab taken from a handout video released by Venezuelan Television (VTV) showing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (C), his wife Cilia Flores (L) and military authorities reacting to a loud band during a ceremony to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the National Guard in Caracas on August 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 05 August 2018
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US denies role as Venezuela’s Maduro blames ‘assassination’ attempt on Colombia

  • Seven soldiers were wounded by the alleged attack using explosive-laden drones during a military parade in Caracas

CARACAS: The United States on Sunday denied involvement as Nicolas Maduro blamed the opposition and Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos for an alleged “assassination” attempt on the Venezuela president.
Venezuela’s far-left government said seven soldiers were wounded by the alleged attack using explosive-laden drones during a military parade in Caracas on Saturday.
Maduro pointed the finger at outgoing Colombian President Santos and “the ultra-right wing,” a term he uses to describe domestic opposition, as a mysterious rebel group claimed responsibility.
US national security adviser John Bolton insisted there was “no US government involvement” and even suggested that the incident could have been “a pretext set up by the regime itself.”
Venezuela has already reacted to Saturday’s events with a series of arrests as Attorney General Tarek William Saab, who was also present at the parade, warning: “There will be a ruthless punishment.”
Saab said the names of those arrested would be revealed on Monday.
Once safely entrenched back in the presidential palace, Maduro barked out a defiant message to his detractors in a national address.
“Justice! Maximum punishment! And there will be no forgiveness,” he warned, sparking fears of an anti-opposition offensive in a country already reportedly holding some 248 political prisoners.
“I am fine, I am alive, and after this attack I’m more determined than ever to follow the path of the revolution,” added the successor to the late author of Venezuela’s socialist revolution, Hugo Chavez.
State television images showed Maduro looking up disconcertedly in the middle of a speech, having heard a bang, before members of the country’s National Guard lined up in the parade suddenly scattered.
“It was an attack to kill me, they tried to assassinate me,” Maduro said.
Communication Minister Jorge Rodriguez said there was “an explosive charge... detonated close to the presidential podium” and in several other spots along the parade held in central Caracas. Saab told CNN he saw a drone filming the event explode.
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.
Meanwhile, a policeman who requested anonymity told AFP that drones may have been released from a nearby apartment that suffered a fire after one exploded. However, other accounts attributed the fire to the accidental explosion of a gas cylinder.
Late on Saturday, a civilian and military rebel group calling itself the “National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts” claimed responsibility in a statement passed to US-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.”
Maduro, though, blamed neighboring Colombia: “I have no doubt that the name Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack.”


North Korea says it has tested new “high-tech tactical” weapon

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects Samjiyon County, in this undated photo released on October 30, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). (REUTERS)
Updated 8 min 6 sec ago
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North Korea says it has tested new “high-tech tactical” weapon

  • The North has reportedly expressed anger in recent days at South Korea’s resumption of small-scale military drills with the United States

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observed the successful test of a “newly developed high-tech tactical” weapon, the nation’s state media reported Friday, though it didn’t describe what sort of weapon it was.
It didn’t appear to be a nuclear or missile-related test, a string of which last year had many fearing war before the North turned to engagement and diplomacy early this year. Still, any mention of weapons testing could influence the direction of stalled diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang that’s meant to rid the North of its nuclear weapons.
The North said the test took place at the Academy of National Defense Science and that Kim couldn’t suppress his “passionate joy” at the success of the test.
The North has reportedly expressed anger in recent days at South Korea’s resumption of small-scale military drills with the United States. But Friday’s report didn’t appear to focus on North Korean claims of US and South Korean hostility, as it did when announcing previous weapons tests. Last year’s weapons tests, many experts believe, put the North on the brink of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can target anywhere in the mainland United States.
The North says this recent unspecified weapon has been under development for a long time and will help strengthen the country’s defense and the combat power of its army.
It was the first publicly known field inspection of a weapons test by Kim Jong Un since he observed the testing of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in November of last year, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
Diplomacy has stalled since a June summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore, with Washington pushing for more action on nuclear disarmament and the North insisting that the US first approve a peace declaration formally ending the Korean War.