Maduro: Helicopter threw grenades at Venezuela's Supreme Court

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
Last Update: 10:08

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says a chopper has fired on the country΄s Supreme Court in Caracas, describing it as a "terror attack." Earlier, he threatened war against any US-backed coup attempt by his opponents.A Venezuelan police helicopter attacked the country΄s Supreme Court building and a government ministry in Caracas on Tuesday in what embattled President Nicolas Maduro described as a "terror attack" by people seeking a coup.

The aircraft dropped four grenades on the court where judges were meeting and fired 15 shots at the Interior Ministry, where people were celebrating a social event for journalists, officials said. No one was injured.

The gun and grenade attack came hours after Maduro warned that he was prepared to enter a full-scale conflict to resolve the country΄s months-long political crisis.

Speaking on state TV, the 54-year-old president appeared to claim that the attack from the stolen helicopter was part of a conspiracy to destabilize his socialist government and said he had activated the country΄s air defense in response.

"Sooner rather than later, we are going to capture the helicopter and those behind this armed terrorist attack against the institutions of the country," Maduro said.

The Venezuelan news site CarotaDigital tweeted a video that purported to show a helicopter flying over the city, followed by the sound of several shots.

DW correspondent in Caracas, Oscar Schlenker, confirmed the attack and described seeing a chopper flown by what he said were the police and military, opening fire on the Supreme Court building.

Pilot claims responsibility in video

A short while later a video was distributed on social media, in which the apparent pilot of the chopper - identified as Oscar Perez - called for a revolt against Maduro΄s government.  

"We have two choices: be judged tomorrow by our conscience and the people or begin today to free ourselves from this corrupt government," Perez told viewers while flanked by four people dressed in military fatigues, ski masks and carrying what looked like assault rifles.

Maduro said the pilot used to fly for his former Interior Minister, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who he accused of working for the CIA. Torres dismissed the accusation as baseless.

State television distributed photos of the pilot standing in front of the US Capitol in Washington to bolster claims that he was taking instructions from the CIA and the US Embassy.

But many of Maduro΄s opponents accused the president on social media of orchestrating an elaborate ruse to justify a crackdown against Venezuelans seeking to block his plans to rewrite the constitution.

Maduro warns of war

Earlier in the day, Maduro gave a speech to supporters warning that he was prepared to take up arms to defend his country from any US-backed coup attempt from his political opponents.

"If Venezuela were to be plunged into chaos and violence ... we would go to combat. We would never give up, and what couldn΄t be done with votes, we would do with weapons, we would liberate the fatherland with weapons," he said.

Read more: US calls for international action on Venezuela΄s ΄tragic situation΄

Read more: South American nations divided on Venezuela crisis

Maduro΄s comments were aimed partly at his political opponents, who have taken to the streets over the past three months to protest his leadership. But they also targeted US President Donald Trump, who Maduro claims is backing the oil-rich country΄s opposition to oust him.

mm/gsw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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