Venezuelan President Blames Alleged Assassination Attempt On Colombian President

Government officials said the explosions occurred near President Nicolás Maduro during a televised speech.
The Venezuelan president survived an assassination attempt involving drones loaded with explosives. 
The Venezuelan president survived an assassination attempt involving drones loaded with explosives. 

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was unharmed after an explosion went off while he was giving a speech in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital.

Minutes after the attack, Venezuelan information minister Jorge Rodríguez said in a public address that “drone-like devices” carrying explosives detonated in an “attack” targeting the president, the Associated Press and Reuters reported.

The explosives detonated near the presidential box, according to the minister. Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, was standing near the president when the explosion occurred.

Addressing the nation after the attack, Maduro said he saw a “flying device” explode in front of him during his speech. The president also announced that authorities have captured some people responsible for the drone attack, whom he called “material authors,” according to AP. 

The president blamed the alleged assassination attempt on Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and those on the far-right of Colombia and Venezuela’s political spectrums, according to Al Jazeera’s translation of Maduro’s speech.

Maduro also claimed that a preliminary investigation shows that the people behind the attack lived in Florida, and called on President Donald Trump for help in prosecuting them.

“Already, the first investigations show that those intellectually and financially responsible for this attack live in the United States of North America, in Florida,” Maduro said, according to the Washington Post’s translation of the speech.

“I hope the government of Donald Trump is willing to combat terrorist groups that want to attack presidents of peaceful nations.”

A group named Soldados de Franelas (Soldiers in t-shirts) has also claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter

In a series of tweets, the group said it planned to fly two drones “loaded with C4” to the presidential box, but it was shot down by snipers before it reached the target. HuffPost has reached out to the group for comment.

As seen in video of the speech, the president’s security personnel rushed to shield Maduro from the attack.

Another partial video of the speech shows Maduro, his wife and other military officials bracing as they look out into the distance. One clip shows military members running away.

“At exactly 5:41 p.m. in the afternoon several explosions were heard,” Rodriguez said in an address to the country following the incident, according to AP.

“The investigation clearly reveals they came from drone-like devices that carried explosives.”

While the government is calling the explosions a drone attack, firefighters at the scene disputed that drones were involved, according to AP.

Three fire officials who spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity believe the explosion was caused by a gas tank explosion in an apartment. Video filmed from buildings near the speech’s venue shows smoke rising from buildings.

Venezuela’s government routinely accuses opposition activists of plotting to attack and overthrow Maduro, a deeply unpopular leader who was recently elected to a new term in office in a vote decried by dozens of nations. Maduro has steadily moved to concentrate power as the nation reels from a crippling economic crisis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.