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A group of dissident Venezuelan soldiers claimed to have taken over an army base in the city of Valencia on Sunday, calling on the people to support them in a “legitimate rebellion” against Nicolas Maduro’s “murderous tyranny”. The attempt appeared to have been quickly put down by the government, which declared it had thwarted an attack on the base by “terrorists”, and that the army was now back in control. Tank and armoured vehicles respond to attack in Venezuela military base 01:08 Two of the attackers were killed and eight were captured, Mr Maduro said on state television, claiming the group of "mercenaries" - whose total number he put at around 20 - had ties to Colombia and the United States. "We know where they are headed and all of our military and police force is deployed," Mr Maduro said. He said he would ask for "the maximum penalty for those who participated in this terrorist attack." In a video circulating on social media, a group of men in military uniform purporting to represent the 41st Armoured Brigade in Valencia announced the start of “Operation David”, which they said was a “legitimate rebellion” against a government that was was destroying the country. Venezuela's President Maduro has been accused of behaving like a dictator Credit: REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo Other videos appeared to show people cheering and coming out on to the streets as armoured vehicles circulated around the military base. There were also reports of heavy confrontations, with shots ringing out and clouds of teargas visible in some footage. The apparent uprising comes two days after the installation of Mr Maduro's controversial constituent assembly, which is empowered to rewrite the constitution and dismiss institutions deemed hostile to the government. On Saturday it fired the country's rebel attorney general, Luisa Ortega Diaz, and appointed a senior Chavista in her place, in a move condemned internationally as dictatorial. Ms Ortega insisted on Sunday that she remained the attorney general, and could not be dismissed by the "illegitimate" assembly, which she said been elected through "manipulated" results and voter intimidation. URGENTE! APOYO RESISTENCIA Con ellos también están Oficiales y tropas retirados, policías y civiles. pic.twitter.com/nd8t3orDKI 42W— Alberto Franceschi (@alFranceschi) August 6, 2017 In the video message, the commander of the group, who identified himself as Captain Juan Caguaripano, called for support from other units, the police and all “brave men and women, lovers of freedom of peace” in their fight to defend the country's democracy. “We clarify, this is not a coup d’etat. This is a military and civilian action to reestablish the constitutional order but what’s more, to save the country from total destruction, to stop the killers of our young people and families,” he said. Diosdado Cabello, Mr Maduro’s powerful second in command, said later that they had “consolidated total control” of the base after the “attack by groups of mercenary terrorists”. There was “absolute normality” among the rest of the country’s armed forces, he insisted. In a statement, the Armed Forces said that they had detained the leader of the group, a known army defector, and several others, who they claimed were civilians in military uniform. They had revealed they were contracted by "activists from Venezuela's extreme Right, in connection with foreign governments", the statement said. Explosions and clashes in Venezuela 00:57 If serving officers were found to have been involved, it would be the clearest sign yet of a rupture within the Armed Forces, whose loyalties will determine the future of the Maduro government. Amid conflicting reports on the ground, there were some suggestions that the entire “Operation David” was a so-called false flag staged by the government in order to justify repression of opponents. Rocio San Miguel, president of Citizen’s Control, a civilian watchdog for security, defense and the armed forces, said it “smells like a false flag” to “serve as an excuse for ferocious persecution inside the Armed Forces”. The captain of the group in fact been wanted by Venezuelan authorities since 2014, when he issued a similar video message during a deadly round of protests known as “The Salida (The Exit)”. Similar questions have been raised over an apparent helicopter attack on the Supreme Court in June, which was claimed by a shadowy faction led by a dissident police officer, Oscar Perez. The now fugitive Mr Perez, who has previously acted in an a movie, continues to publish video messages calling for insurrection.
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