CNN released an exclusive interview with one of the persons responsible for the August 2018 drone attack on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The CNN video gives an inside look into the detailed plan aimed to assassinate Maduro.
What was their goal? Kill President Maduro and end the tyranny of his regime
Where did they get the drone? Purchased online from a U.S. retailer
CNN Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh sat down with the self-proclaimed organizer of the attack. The organizer explains the attack was carried out by a group of Venezuelan Army defectors and others. He recounts how the group prepared for the attack and practiced drone flights in rural Colombia.
Some world leaders, such as U.S. National Security advisor John Bolton, had speculated Maduro staged the attack. However, the group is taking responsibility for the attack and told CNN on condition of anonymity "we have tried every peaceful and democratic way to bring an end to this tyranny that dresses itself as democracy." U.S. officials now believe it was a genuine attempt gone wrong.
Months before Maduro was set to give his August address to the military, the group purchased drones from an online U.S. retailer, rigged the drones with explosives that detonate through a remote control app, and practiced using the devices on a rural farm in Columbia. They disassembled the drones to sneak them into Venezuela. Then, reassembled the drones and had the devices ready hours before the military parade.
Videos show the group practicing: flying the drones high enough to avoid detection and then swooping down at a steep angle to strike their target. They practice in different scenarios: amid green hills over a swimming pool, launched out of a car window, under cover of night. One drone would be later blown up in a test.
Cell signal blockers foiled the plan. Cell signal blockers used to protect against attacks were off but were suddenly switched on causing the devices to detonate prematurely and ultimately, thwarted the assassination attempt.
The Venezuelan government's account of the attack, provided by the interior minister, confirms parts of their story, including the drones' flight paths.
After the attack, the group claimed they met with U.S. officials on three occasions. The organizer said, “they wanted to get information, and then we asked for things in return. They took notes on this, and we asked if they would be able to help. Then they simply left with their notes, and they never appeared again." A U.S. State Department spokesman declined to comment on the alleged meetings, but said: "Our policy is to support a peaceful transition in Venezuela."
The self-declared interim president of Venezuela, its opposition leader Juan Guaido, told CNN he disapproved of the attack and said: "such options are not good."
The organizer admitted they were willing to risk the lives of innocent civilians in their attempt to end the tyranny of Maduro. "That was the risk we had to take," the man told CNN. We cared about that as the Venezuelan people are always the ones feeling the consequences."
The attack and manipulation of ordinary commercial drones show just how lethal drones can be in the wrong hands. The fact that anyone with a little knowledge of explosives - or access to Youtube and Google - can turn a drone into a deadly weapon is frightening. Without security measures such as drone detection, plans such as this one could play out anywhere in the world.