Apparent drone attack in Venezuela highlights growing concern for U.S.
It has the makings of a Hollywood film: a head of state dodging an assassination attempt from a drone. That's what Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro says happened to him on Saturday.
A loud blast could be heard as Maduro was giving a speech. On stage, troops rushed to protect the president behind portable ballistic shields. Seconds later, state TV cameras showed soldiers scrambling in response to an apparent second explosion from another drone, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil. Seven soldiers were injured. A video posted to Twitter shows a drone exploding in mid-air. CBS News could not authenticate the video.
Maduro – who was unharmed – said the incident was an attack on his life. He blamed the Venezuelan "far right" in addition to the U.S. and Colombian governments. Both countries have denied any involvement.
Venezuelan officials said the two drones were loaded with about two pounds of C-4 explosives. They were able to knock off one of the drones electronically. The other apparently crashed into an apartment building two blocks away.
Maduro has been condemned by his opponents, who accuse him of leading Venezuela into an economic and humanitarian catastrophe and driving hundreds of thousands of people to flee. Saturday's alleged attack would not be the first to target the controversial leader, but it would mark a new milestone in the use of drones.
Drones in the hands of terrorists have been a growing concern among U.S. officials. Last year, the Washington Post reported ISIS used drones to attack U.S. Special Operations forces in Syria.
In joint testimony delivered to Congress in June, top homeland security officials called drones a "serious, looming threat" that the U.S. is "currently unprepared to confront."
"It doesn't take much training and affixing some kind of explosive to a drone to fashion a crude weapon," RAND Corporation senior political scientist Colin Clarke said.
Clarke specializes in terrorist insurgency for Rand Corporation, a non-profit global policy think tank. He said as drones become more common, the interest in using them for terrorism increases – including in the U.S.
"This is the new world we're living in. And we've got to adjust and I think we've got to come up with counter measures," Clarke said.
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