Helicopter Attackers Group 'Dismantled' by Venezuela Authorities
By Staff Writers | teleSUR
Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018
|Venezuelan authorities have confirmed that the group responsible for an armed attack on several government buildings in 2017 has been "dismantled after a confrontation with the security forces."
"These terrorists, who were heavily armed with high-caliber weapons, opened fire on the officials responsible for their capture and attempted to detonate a vehicle loaded with explosives," said a statement from the country's Interior Ministry on Monday.
The statement added that two officials from the Bolivarian National Police had been killed and five seriously injured in the raid, while an unspecified number of "terrorist cell" members had been killed, along with five captured and detained.
"We want to congratulate the performance of all the police and military officials who participated in the operations to neutralize this terrorist group," added the ministry communique.
Former police helicopter pilot Oscar Perez published in a series of Instagram videos on Monday, saying that he was surrounded by authorities who were shooting at him in a poor neighborhood outside Caracas. The actor was among those wanted for using a stolen helicopter to lob grenades and shoot at government buildings in June as well as for breaking into a National Guard unit in December to steal weapons.
Venezuela's government has described him as a "fanatic, extremist terrorist" and a manhunt has been under way for months.
Authorities appeared to have finally tracked him down in the poor hillside neighborhood of El Junquito.
Venezuela's Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations agency confirmed that a helicopter was stolen on June 27, 2017. The helicopter circled around the country's Supreme Court building, firing shots before throwing grenades, according to officials.
Perez is accused of leading the group responsible for firing 15 shots at the Interior Ministry, where 80 people were still working, before throwing four grenades at the Supreme Court, where a session of the Constitutional Court was taking place.
The top court's building in northern Caracas was sealed off after the national guard repelled the attack.
Perez claimed responsibility for the attack in videos he published on social media, while authorities said the assault was aimed at stopping the July 30 Constituent Assembly vote.
He went into hiding afterward, only to pop up two weeks later at an anti-government protest.
Then in December, a video posted on Perez's YouTube account showed armed, masked men attempting to take control of military barracks under cover of night.
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