6 arrested over alleged drone attack on Venezuela's Maduro

Although details were sparse and confusing, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro survived what appears to be the first assassination attempt using commercially available drones.

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

Three soldiers were in critical condition and four more were injured in the alleged attack that involved two remote-controlled drones, Reverol said.

Earlier on Twitter, the group said it was made up of "patriotic military personnel and civilians loyal to the Venezuelan people who seek to rescue the democracy of a nation under dictatorship".

Hours after the attack, the Venezuelan President said: "I am alive and victorious".

"There will be no forgiveness", Maduro warned, for what a military statement said was an act of "barbarism in a desperate attempt to destabilize" the government. The far right in both Venezuela and Colombia, along with outgoing Colombian President Santos, plotted the attack, Maduro charged. Security guards quickly moved in with ballistic blankets to protect Maduro.

U.S. national security advisor John Bolton insisted there was "no USA government involvement" and even suggested that the incident may have been "a pretext set up by the regime itself".

"I hope the Trump administration is willing to fight terrorist groups that commit attacks in peaceful countries in our continent, in this case Venezuela".

Maduro, whose approval ratings hover around 25 percent, with opponents blaming his policies for worsening an economic meltdown, has called government supporters to unite in the face of what he described as right-wing plots led by the neighboring Colombian government and exiles in the United States.

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

The Associated Press reports that one of the drones then crashed into a nearby building before falling to the ground and exploding.

The incident happened when Mr Maduro was speaking at an event to mark the anniversary of the national guard.

Santos, meanwhile, tweeted directly to Maduro, saying, "Don't worry".

Maduro and his allies called the attack direct proof that an global plot to overthrow his socialist administration exists, while also saying that the military's response shows he still has the loyalty of Venezuela's soldiers. Venezuelans have struggled to buy scarce food and medicine in the country amid soaring inflation rates.

Venezuela, a once-wealthy oil-producing nation, is in the midst of a five-year crisis under Maduro's socialist government.

He says the economic malaise gripping Venezuela is an "economic war" and any unrest is plotted by foreign powers. Maduro, a former bus driver, won a new six-year term in May but his main rivals disavowed the election and alleged massive irregularities.

  • Jon Douglas