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.”


13 under arrest for Sri Lanka blasts: police

Sri Lankan security personnel keep watch outside the church premises following a blast at the St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade in Colombo on April 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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13 under arrest for Sri Lanka blasts: police

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police have arrested 13 men in connection with bomb blasts on churches and hotels that killed more than 200 people, officials said Monday.
Authorities have not made public details on those held after Sunday’s attacks. But a police source told AFP the 13 were detained at two locations in and around Colombo.
The source said the 13 men are from the same radical group.
At least two of the eight attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, according to police and other sources, and three police were killed when another suicide bomber detonated explosives during a raid on a house where suspects were.