Venezuela's Maduro blames 'assassination' attempt on Colombia

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He says security officers disabled one drone that was flying toward the stage where Maduro was standing beside his wife and other high-ranking officials. But the image of martial lockstep was quickly shattered when a second drone hit a building nearby, as scores of soldiers scurried away before the live transmission ended and switched to reruns about the South American country's vehicle census.

But three local authorities said a gas tank exploded in a nearby flat, where smoke was seen streaming out of a window.

But the military managed to knock one of the drones off-course electronically and the other crashed into apartment building two blocks away from where Maduro was speaking.

The suspects launched two drones laden with explosives over the outdoor rally, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said.

A defiant Mr Maduro said God, the Venezuelan people and the security services had saved him.

Mr Maduro accused neighbouring Colombia and elements within the United States of instigating "a right-wing plot" to kill him.

"We warn that the government is taking advantage of this incident.to criminalise 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.

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Within seconds, Maduro said he heard a second blast and pandemonium broke out.

General Secretary of the Friends of Venezuela Solidarity Committee (Barbados) David Denny has strongly condemned Saturday's apparent assassination attempt against Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro.

The alleged assassination attempt came days after the Colombian president told AFP that Maduro's days are numbered and "that regime has to fall".

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.

A mysterious rebel group also claimed responsibility for the alleged attack.

The president later described the attack, which injured seven soldiers, as an assassination attempt.

On Sunday, White House national security adviser John Bolton said that the US had nothing to do with the incident and suggested the whole thing may have been "a pretext set up by the regime itself".

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"We demonstrated that they are vulnerable".

The arrests suggest the attack was less a military uprising than an assault led by groups linked to anti-Maduro street protesters, dubbed "The Resistance", who have led two waves of violent demonstrations that left hundreds dead.

Maduro said: "I have no doubt that the name (Colombian President) Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack".

Officials say attackers flew drones loaded with explosives toward the president during an open-air military ceremony that was broadcast on live television.

The Colombian foreign ministry denied involvement, saying the allegations were "absurd" and "lacked any foundation".

Patricia Andrade, executive director of the human rights organization Venezuela Awareness Foundation, said Maduro's government takes advantage of any excuse to stop the opposition and dig in its heels.

In June 2017, an intelligence police commander flew a helicopter over government institutions and threw grenades at the country's Supreme Court building.

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