Venezuela hunts for rebels be­hind army base at­tack

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Cara­cas, Venezuela - Venezuela’s mil­i­tary on Mon­day hunted a group of ‘mer­ce­nar­ies’ who made off with weapons in an at­tack on an army base car­ried out against what they called the ‘mur­der­ous tyranny’ of Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro.

Around 20 men led by a dis­si­dent army of­fi­cer, who de­serted sev­eral years ago, bat­tled troops for three hours early on Sun­day at the base in the city of Va­len­cia, of­fi­cials said.

The raid ended with two of the at­tack­ers killed and eight cap­tured, Maduro said on state tele­vi­sion.

The other ten es­caped with weapons taken from the fa­cil­ity, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials who said an ‘in­tense search’ was un­der­way for them.

Maduro claimed the ‘ter­ror­ist’ group had ties to Colom­bia and the United States.

The in­ci­dent height­ened fears that Venezuela’s in­ten­si­fy­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic cri­sis could ex­plode into greater vi­o­lence, per­haps open armed con­flict.

Of­fi­cials in­sisted after­ward that all was nor­mal across the coun­try, but so­cial net­works were full of dis­cus­sion about the at­tack, with spec­u­la­tion that it was car­ried out by former Venezue­lan sol­diers.

The armed forces said in a state­ment the base was as­saulted by ‘a group of civil­ian crim­i­nals wear­ing mil­i­tary uni­forms and a first lieu­tenant who had de­serted’.

Maduro said the lieu­tenant was among those cap­tured, and was ‘ac­tively giv­ing in­for­ma­tion and we have tes­ti­mony from seven of the civil­ians’.

Maduro praised the army for its ‘im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion’ in put­ting down the at­tack.

Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion has re­peat­edly urged the mil­i­tary to aban­don Maduro.

But De­fence Min­is­ter Vladimir Padrino, the head of the armed forces, has said the mil­i­tary’s loy­alty was un­shak­able.

(AFP)

This file photo shows fire­fight­ers dous­ing the fire on a po­lice booth set ablaze by op­po­si­tion demon­stra­tors, in Cara­cas on July 20

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