Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro's 'drone assassination attempt' surrounded in mystery as firefighters claim explosion was gas canisters and rivals deny involvement
Questions have been raised about whether the alleged "terrorist" attack was faked after Maduro quickly blamed political opponents and media footage of the event suddenly cut out.
The president was mid-speech at a military parade in Caracas when two blasts rang out above his podium, startling the head of state and his wife Cilia Flores.
Both were suddenly swamped with security personnel who shielded them with bulletproof padding.
Hundreds of soldiers broke ranks and sprinted for cover as explosions went off last night. Seven soldiers were hurt.
Maduro claims he saw a "flying device" explode before his eyes before instantly blaming 'ultra-right' opponents.
But despite plenty of cameras trained on the live event, no footage of drones emerged on television or social media.
Following investigations, three fire officials disputed the government's version of events.
They claimed the blast actually came from explosions inside the Residencias Don Eduardo apartment building.
Smoke was seen bellowing from a window in the building where the incident occurred.
Maduro, 55, was quick to announce a crackdown on his rivals as he vowed to take down those responsible for the "attempt to kill me".
He said: "They have tried to assassinate me and everything points to the Venezuelan ultra-right in alliance with the Colombian far right and that the name of [Columbian President] Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack."
He also said he believed Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos – one of his most outspoken critics – was behind the bomb plot.
And he claimed the plot was planned and financed in Florida and asked for Donald Trump's help catching the perpetrators.
Information minister Jorge Rodriguez said: "At exactly 5:41 p.m. in the afternoon several explosions were heard. The investigation clearly reveals they came from drone-like devices that carried explosives."
Colombia hit back at the claims, describing them as "baseless". Meanwhile an obscure militant group claimed responsibility for the attack in a single unverified tweet.
Hasler Inglesias, a youth leader in the Venezuelan opposition Voluntad Popular Party, dismissed the claim.
"We didn't know what was happening," he told the BBC. "It's hard to believe that the opposition is going to make an attempt when they have never made an attempt in this way in 20 years."
Maduro has since called on US president Donald Trump to join his fight against the "terrorist groups" responsible for the attack.
The explosions cut short a televised speech by the Venezuelan head of government during the National Guard's 81 anniversary celebration.
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez condemned it as an attempted attack on the President's life.
Wearing a presidential banner, Maduro was speaking on a podium alongside his wife Cilia Flores and several high-ranking military officials.
He told the crowds: “To the conscious Venezuela, we are going to bet for the good of our country, the hour of the economic recovery has come and we need….”
Maduro then stops and looks up in the air in horror and Cilia recoils in horror.
A day of violence and confusion:
- Explosions rang out above the Venezuelan National Guard's 81 anniversary celebration at 5:41pm yesterday as President Nicolas Maduro delivered a speech
- Seven soldiers were injured in the attack as security personnel rushed to protect Maduro. Buildings were also damaged by the exploding drones
- Addressing the press after the blasts he said two drones had been deployed in an attempt to assassinate him
- The president blamed the attack on exiles in the US and Colombia as well as the Colombian government
- Tensions with Colombia are high over its sheltering of dissidents from Maduro's socialist country
- Colombian officials denied responsibility for the attack
- An obscure group called Soldiers in T-shirts claimed they carried out the assassination attempt, although this is unverified
- Maduro called for support form Donald Trump to "help me fight these terrorists"
- Venezuelan officials said several suspects had been arrested but did not disclose their identities
Later security forces were seen checking a nearby building that was apparently set alight around the same time as the explosions.
Mr Maduro blamed far-right factions and the government of neighbouring Colombia.
Maduro said at no point did he panic, confident the military would protect him.
"That drone came after me," he said. "But there was a shield of love that always protects us. I'm sure I'll live for many more years."
He said police had made a number of arrests but gave no further details.
A previously unknown group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Soldiers in T-shirts said in a tweet that it planned to fly two drones loaded with explosives at the president, but government soldiers shot them down before they reached their target.
The claims could not be immediately verified.
Mr Maduro, who succeeded tyrant Hug Chavez, was elected to a new term in office in May despite a crippling economic and humanitarian crisis and violence on the streets.
Boris Johnson said the vote was "obviously rigged" and called for fresh international sanctions.
Maduro's regime has been accused of locking up political opponents and using deadly force to put down protests.
How President Maduro plunged Venezuela into political and economic crisis
PRESIDENT Nicolas Mduro has clung to power in Venezuela plunging the country into political turmoil at home and with governments overseas.
International observers have decried Maduro's violent clampdown that has seen more than 125 people die in bloody clashes since he won sweeping powers in a rigged election in August last year.
Once the richest country in Latin America, and despite still being a major oil exporting nation, the now socialist administration's economy is on the verge of total collapse.
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have fled the country, where food and medicine are in short supply and inflation could reach one million percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Maduro, a 55-year-old socialist leader, has stuffed the current parliament and Supreme Court with his own supporters – and America, Mexico, Columbia and Panama have all sanctioned a number of their leaders.
France, Germany and Canada withdrew their ambassadors, and the US previously told all embassy staff to leave the country.
Maduro often ciriticses the opposition and the US, claiming they are working together to overthrow him.
The president violently suppressed protests after his election last year as thousands marched for four months against his creation of the Constitutional Assembly which solidified his hold on the governmnent.
The body replaced elected legislature and the Supreme Court later declared the more democraic National Assembly dissolved.
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