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Venezuela rounds up ‘terrorists’ for attack as opposition fears reprisals

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Six "terrorists and hired killers" have been arrested in Venezuela accused of trying to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro in an alleged drone attack, the government said on Sunday.

Interior and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol announced the arrests on state television, saying more could be on the way "in the coming hours."

Three soldiers were in critical condition and four more were injured in the alleged attack that involved two remote-controlled drones, Reverol said.

He described it as "a crime of terrorism and assassination" and said the "material and intellectual authors inside and outside the country" had been identified.

Maduro vowed to inflict "maximum punishment" on those who tried "to assassinate me." He pointed the finger at outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and "the ultra-right wing" - a term he uses to describe domestic opposition - even as a mysterious rebel group claimed responsibility.

"There will be no forgiveness," Maduro warned, for what a military statement called an act of "barbarism in a desperate attempt to destabilize" the government.

But Nicmer Evans, a former government loyalist and now leader of the opposition Frente Amplio party, said he feared the government's measures "open the door to persecution and a wave of repression."

Those worries came as Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez voiced the military's "unconditional and unrestricted loyalty to our commander in chief."

Meanwhile, the Patriotic Pole coalition of parties allied with the government called for a march on Monday in Caracas to back Maduro.

Army general Padrino Lopez described Saturday's incident as "an aggression against the military" aimed at provoking regime change "through unconstitutional means."

The alleged attack involved two drones, each carrying a kilogram of the plastic explosive C4, which Reverol said  is "capable of causing effective damage over a 50-meter radius."



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