Drones armed with explosives detonated near Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as he gave a speech to soldiers. (Xinhua via AP)
One of the six suspects detained had a pending arrest warrant for a 2017 attack on a military base, Mr Reverol said. A second had been arrested in 2014 for participating in anti-government street protests,
The arrests suggest the attack was linked to groups linked to anti-Maduro street protesters, dubbed “The Resistance”, who have led two waves of violent demonstrations that left hundreds dead.
That is consistent with the shadowy group that claimed responsibility for the attack, The National Movement of Soldiers in T-Shirts.
The Movement’s website says it was created in 2014 to bring together different groups of protesters.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm the involvement of the group, which did not respond to requests for comment on the arrest announcements, or identify any of its members.
‘It was so strong that the buildings moved’
The attack highlights Mr Maduro’s challenges in maintaining control over the OPEC nation, where widespread food and medicine shortages have fuelled outrage and despair everywhere from hillside slums to military barracks.
Opposition critics said the Government had in the past used such incidents as a pretext for heavy-handed actions against critics, including jailing some of the country’s best-known leaders.
Mr Maduro’s allies counter that the Opposition has a history of involvement in military conspiracies, most notably in the 2002 coup that briefly toppled socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
“We warn that the Government is taking advantage of this incident … to criminalise those who legitimately and democratically oppose it and deepen the repression and systematic human rights violations,” wrote the Broad Front opposition coalition in a statement published on Twitter.
Investigators continued searching a blackened apartment building near the site while also seizing vehicles and raiding hotel rooms where they said they had found “film evidence”.
Two witnesses who live in nearby apartment buildings said they saw a drone hovering over a residential street on Saturday evening and then heard an explosion.
One witness showed the Associated Press mobile video of a drone crashing into a building.
He said the drone fell to the ground and exploded, igniting a fire in an apartment.
Other witnesses in the area said they heard and felt an explosion in the late afternoon, then saw a drone fall out of the sky and hit a nearby building.
“I heard the first explosion, it was so strong that the buildings moved,” 45-year-old schoolteacher Mairum Gonzalez said.
“I went to the balcony and I saw the little plane … it hit the building and smoke started to come out.”
Another witness, who lives in the building that was struck by the drone but asked not to be identified, described a similar sequence of events.
Separately, two other onlookers said they later saw security forces stop a black Chevrolet and arrest three men inside it.
The security forces later took apart the car and found what appeared to be remote controls, tablets and computers, said the two, who identified themselves as Andres and Karina, without giving their last names.
Firemen appeared quickly on the scene to put out the blaze, but were not told what the cause of it was, Caracas Fire Department official Jose Oropeza said.
A uniformed official bleeds from the head following an incident during a speech by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela. (Xinhua via AP)
The National Movement of Soldiers with T-Shirts sent a statement wishing a speedy recovery for seven wounded soldiers but vowed further resistance.
“We will not cease our struggle until we achieve the restoration of the constitution and of democracy,” the statement read.
Maduro ally Freddy Bernal tweeted mugshots of seven people who appeared to be in their early twenties, urging the Venezuelan people to search for “these traitors”.
‘There will be no forgiveness’
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro abruptly cut his speech at the military event. (Reuters: Miraflores Palace)
Mr Maduro, who blames the country’s problems on an “economic war” led by adversaries, during the course of his five-year rule has often announced having foiled military plots against him that he says are backed by Washington.
“I have no doubt that everything points to the Right, the Venezuelan ultra-Right,” Mr Maduro said in a broadcast. “Maximum punishment! And there will be no forgiveness.”
US National Security Advisor John Bolton told Fox News in an interview on Sunday that the United States was not involved in the blast.
“It could be a lot of things, from a pre-text set-up by the Maduro regime itself, to something else,” he said.