Welcome to 2018, a strange time when viral videos show aerial drones attempting to assassinate strongmen world leaders.
On Saturday afternoon, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was targeted by an apparent assassination attempt that reportedly involved two aerial drones armed with explosives, Reuters reports.
Maduro was delivering a speech to soldiers in the country’s capital Caracas. Videos from the Venezuelan public broadcaster show Maduro, along with a gang of military leaders on stage, suddenly look up to the sky. The audio from the clip then disappears, although two loud explosions were reported. The president's security team proceed to huddle around him with what appear to be bulletproof shields. The video cuts to the scores of soldiers who start fleeing in panic.
Most pieces of information about the attack are hazy, with international news agencies and the Venezuelan authorities all telling slightly differing accounts of the day’s event. Some have even suggested the attack was a false flag, although that remains unsubstantiated.
Maduro was unharmed during the attack, but seven soldiers were injured.
“I am alive and victorious,” the president said in a televised speech after the attack. “Everything points to the Venezuelan ultra-right in alliance with the Colombian ultra-right, and that the name of Juan Manuel Santos [Colombia's president] is behind this attack.”
The Associated Press reports that one of the drones then crashed into a nearby building before falling to the ground and exploding. The other was electronically knocked off course by the military. A little-known group called "The National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts” claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt. As of Monday, authorities have detained six suspects, although they claim to be on the heels of a few more individuals.
“It was not successful today, but it is just a matter of time,” the group reportedly said in a tweet.
The idea of terrorists using drone attacks against heads of state might seem like a far-out idea from a science fiction movie, but it’s likely to be a theme that sticks around in years to come. They’re cheap, easy to use, and extremely accessible.
Writing in The Washington Post, former director of counterterrorism at the CIA Bernard Hudson concludes: “Weaponized drones are firmly in the hands of non-state actors. No one is safe. Not heads of state. Not the flying public. We cannot afford delay in devising ways to combat this new peril.”
Maduro took power in 2013 after the death of socialist leader Hugo Chávez. The bus driver-turned-president has recently proved wildly unpopular following a massive economic collapse last year. In August 2017, the situation in the South American city became so dire some citizens broke into a zoo in Maracaibo and ate the animals.