The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, survived an apparent assassination attempt on Saturday after drones carrying explosives were detonated during his speech at a commemorative event in Caracas.
“This was an assassination attempt, they tried to assassinate me,” the President confirmed in a televised address following the incident.
According to Reuters, a group called the “National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts” has claimed responsibility for the attack, stating on social media that it had planned to fly two drones armed with C4 but that snipers had shot them down.
La operación era sobrevolar 2 drones cargados con C4 el objetivo el palco presidencial, francotiradores de la guardia de honor derribaron los drones antes de llegar al objetivo.
Demostramos que son vulnerables, no se logró hoy pero es cuestión de tiempo. #MilitaresPatriotas pic.twitter.com/teIEwygN3S
— Soldados de Franelas (@soldadoDfranela) August 4, 2018
“We demonstrated that they are vulnerable. We didn’t have success today, but it’s just a question of time,” said the group, which says it was founded in 2014 to bring together all of Venezuela’s “groups of resistance.”
Here’s some of the footage that has been released from a variety of sources. Footage from the ceremony, including the reactions of the assembled crowd, were put out on state television in Venezuela. We can’t confirm its veracity.
Conflicting reports from Venezuela
There are conflicting reports over what happened in Caracas and who was behind it. The right-wing rebel group mentioned above has claimed responsibility. But the political situation in Venezuela is unstable to say the least. Inflation is sky high and President Maduro often accuses international rivals of attempting to subvert the nation’s interests.
A staged assassination attempt shouldn’t be ruled out completely, although it’s not clear how the President would stand to gain from nearly being killed on live TV.
In fact, he claimed the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos was “behind the attack”. And even said that Manual Santos was backing a network of plotters and Florida-based financiers, who had hired assassins that were already in custody with Venezuelan police.
In short, it’s all a little farfetched. Particularly the way in which the investigation and guilty parties have been sown up so quickly.
“The official ‘investigation’ of today’s alleged assassination attempt against president Maduro takes the usual course: begin with the conclusions and work backwards,” Phil Gunson, a consultant with non-profit Crisis Group, said on Twitter on Saturday evening. “In a country where 98% of crime goes unpunished, government sleuths resolve this kind of case in a matter of hours.”
New video emerges of the moment the drone laden with explosives blows up mid-air in an apparent assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Maduro. He was unharmed. (Credit @CaracasNews24 ) pic.twitter.com/GqwiLnlcDZ
— News_Executive (@News_Executive) August 5, 2018
Some, including local firefighters, have cast doubt on the events as described by Maduro. Emergency services interviewed by the Associated Press claimed that the loud explosions heard were actually caused by a gas tank erupting in an apartment close to the ceremony.
But in the latest video, above, a drone in the distance is seen to explode in mid-air.
The conclusion: We just don’t know what to believe.
What do we know for sure
We know for sure that the threat of weaponized drones is nothing new. ISIS has been using modified drones to drop explosives on troops in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan for some time. The incident in Venezuela would, if verified, appear to be the first attempt by a terror group to kill a head of state using the technology.
No doubt counter-UAS companies are about to receive a load of inquiries about their various technologies. It’s also safe to assume that certain drone manufacturers will be asked how their equipment is continuing to get into the hands of groups intent on causing harm.