WATCH: Shocking footage captures a visibly startled Venezuelan president narrowly escape assassination attempt
The video clip shows Maduro looking up at the sky as soon as he hears the sound of an explosion and is seemingly shaken immediately, as his aides cover him with bulletproof shields
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro survived an apparent assassination attempt on Saturday after drones armed with explosives flew toward him during a speech at a military parade in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.
Incredible footage shows the exact moment when two drone bombs explode in front of the controversial socialist leader who suddenly looks up startled mid-speech. Beside him his wife, Cilia Flores, winces after a loud bang.
The huge explosion can be heard in the video, and the footage also shows the quick tactics from his security team to protect him as well as dozens of soldiers on the ground fleeing from the scene. The broadcast is then abruptly cut off.
While Maduro escaped unharmed, seven members of the national guard were hurt during the attack. Maduro blamed the attack on far-right elements and neighbouring Colombia's outgoing president, Juan Manuel Santos.
“This was an attempt to kill me,” the 55-year-old president later said in a retelling of what happened. “Today they attempted to assassinate me... and everything points to the Venezuelan ultra-right in alliance with the Colombian far right and that the name of [Colombian President] Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack." He, however, provided no evidence to back up his accusations.
A photo posted on Twitter by Freddy Nanez, head of the Venezuelan state run news channel VTV, shows bodyguards shielding Maduro following the explosions.
Maduro added that initial investigations “indicate that various of those financing it live in the United States, in the state of Florida”. “I hope that President Donald Trump is ready to fight these terrorist groups,” he said.
Firefighters at the scene disputed that account, however, telling the Associated Press that a gas tank had exploded nearby.
Three officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the incident was actually a gas tank explosion inside an apartment, according to certain media reports. Smoke could be seen coming out of a building window at the site of the incident. It is still unclear if the drones were shot down or just exploded prematurely.
Venezuela's Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez said preliminary information showed the explosions came from several "drone-type flying devices" containing explosive charges that detonated in the vicinity of the presidential stage and in some areas of the parade.
The Colombian government called Maduro’s charges “absurd.” A spokesperson for Santos, who leaves office on Tuesday, said: “The president is focused on the baptism of his granddaughter and not on bringing down foreign governments."
The two presidents have a history of verbal sparring. Santos has often called his Venezuelan counterpart a dictator, and has criticised him for leading his country into economic and political turmoil.
As of yet, nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but one particular group, Soldiers Franelas, has tweeted hinting at their possible involvement. They wrote: "We have shown [the government] is vulnerable. [The attack] wasn’t achieved today but it is just a matter of time [until it is]."
Phil Gunson, a consultant with the non-profit Crisis Group, tweeted: "The official ‘investigation’ of today’s alleged assassination attempt against president Maduro takes the usual course: begin with the conclusions and work backward. In a country where 98% of crime goes unpunished, government sleuths resolve this kind of case in a matter of hours."
Carlos Julio Rojas, who lives one block from the Avenida Bolivar, the central highway where the parade was taking place, told Guardian that he heard two explosions. “I felt the walls of my house tremble and saw the soldiers run to the other side [of the street].”
Another eyewitness, who asked not to be named, was filming the chaos on his phone from outside the event’s picket barrier. “I started recording with my phone what was happening around me … people running around … and a member of the national guard approached me, took my phone and deleted the video,” the middle-aged man told Guardian.