Venezuelan officials said Monday that a group of alleged mercenaries led an attack on an army base, stealing weapons and battling troops in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Officials said 20 men, led by a former Venezuelan first lieutenant who deserted the military, entered an army base in Valencia, battling with soldiers and stealing weapons according to Business Day. 10 men escaped with arms, officials said, while two were killed and eight were captured.
President Nicolas Maduro said the attackers were terrorists, and are most likely connected to organizations in Colombia or the United States. He said the attackers would all receive the maximum punishment available as a result of the raid on the base.
Maduro said the lieutenant was one of the mercenaries captured in the attack, claiming that he and the seven civilians captured had all divulged testimony, according to Straits Times. He said a major search effort was underway to locate the 10 remaining attackers. Military helicopters and tanks have been deployed throughout the city, and a night-time curfew has been imposed on citizens throughout Valencia.
However, he also told citizens on state television that all was normal.
A man who identified himself as army captain Juan Caguaripano posted a video before the attack claiming it was to be a “legitimate rebellion… to reject the murderous tyranny of Nicolas Maduro,” according to Business Day.
His video made a number of political demands, including free elections and a transitional government to replace the existing Venezuelan government, according to Straits Times. Officials have not yet confirmed if Caguaripano was the officer who deserted and attacked the base.
The country has been wracked with protests, upheaval and a significant lack of resources and supplies since April.
A July 30 election offered voters a chance to cast ballots regarding a constitutional assembly, which would give Maduro the power to rewrite the constitution, according to NBC. Protesters boycotted the vote, claiming it was an attempt for Maduro to consolidate power.
Opponents of the Venezuelan government claim that the figure for voter turnout was artificially inflated. Antonio Mugica, the CEO of the firm that provided the voting system for the election, said the number of voters who participated reported by the Maduro government appeared to be off by at least one million, according to the BBC.
[Featured image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]