National Guard patrol hits roadside bomb in Venezuelan capital (GRAPHIC VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Footage taken at the scene shows a powerful explosion hitting a convoy of National Guard officers riding motorcycles.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
Seven officers were injured in the blast, commander-in-chief of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) Major General Sergio Rivero Marcano confirmed to the Venezuelan media, adding that five of them suffered third-degree burns while two others received second-degree burns.
The information about the casualties was also confirmed by Interior Minister Nestor Reverol and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas.
The officers were on patrol when they were hit by a powerful improvised explosive device hidden in a bag placed on the roadside, Reverol said on Twitter. He denounced the incident as a terrorist attack.
It is still unclear who exactly was behind the explosion, as no group has taken responsibility for it so far.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro praised the GNB officers for their work and accused opposition leaders and protest organizers of “terrorism” and "instigating violence,” according to the news outlet El Espectador.
The incident took place on Monday in the Altamira Sur residential district of the Venezuelan capital, amid massive anti-government protests. According to the Venezuelan media, the blast hit a detachment of the National Guard deployed to disperse a “group of violent protesters” trying to blockade the Francisco Fajardo highway.
At the time of the explosion, the National Guard officers also clashed with dozens of violent young demonstrators, who still tried to block the highway near the blast scene, local media reported.
According to Reverol and Villegas, two other officers also suffered gunshot injuries in two separate incidents. One happened in the La Tahona district in eastern Caracas, and the other in the San Antonio district on the outskirts of the capital, around the same time as the blast.
Venezuela has been engulfed in violent protests since April, with demonstrators demanding that a presidential election be held to end Maduro’s tenure. The riots left more than 90 people dead and more than 1,400 injured, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In one of the most recent high-profile incidents, a group led by police pilot Oscar Perez stole a military helicopter from a base in La Carlote and then used it to attack government institutions in Caracas. On June 27, the hijackers fired 15 shots at the Interior Ministry from the helicopter and dropped four grenades of Colombian and Israeli origin on the Supreme Court building, according to Villegas.
Prior to the attack, a video was been published in an Instagram account, purportedly belonging to Oscar Perez. In the video, Perez said he is part of a coalition of military and civilian officials seeking to restore order and demanding the resignation of the government.
Villegas accused Perez of having links with American intelligence, the newspaper El Nacional reported at the time.
President Maduro has blamed external forces, especially the US, for triggering the unrest. He issued a statement to Washington last month, telling President Donald Trump to stop meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.