Venezuelan authorities yesterday arrested five members of a "terrorist cell" linked to self-proclaimed rogue Venezuelan helicopter pilot Oscar Perez, and killed several other militants during a shootout in a poor area outside Caracas.
A statement from the Ministry of Interior Relations added that two officers were killed and another five were wounded during the operation.
Perez, a photogenic former police officer who once starred in an action film, a year ago used a hijacked helicopter to attack government buildings and stole weapons from a military base in what he called a rebellion against President Nicolas Maduro.
In several videos posted after the helicopter attack in June, Perez had declared that he belonged to an uprising of members of the security forces who were fed up with President Nicolas Maduro's administration.
The cell had planned to set off a auto bomb outside the embassy of "a beloved and prestigious country", Maduro said. The helicopter circled around the country's Supreme Court building, firing shots before throwing grenades, according to officials.
Posting a video on Instagram, a visibly injured Perez told his children he loved them and hopes to see them again.
A screenshot taken from a handout video released by Anonymous Venezuela shows Oscar Perez. "Fight, take to the streets, it is time we are free". He garnered tens of thousands of followers online and has piqued the curiosity of Venezuelans who either hail him as hero, condemn him as a criminal or question if he might be a ruse to support Maduro's assertion that the nation is under attack by opposition conspirators. "We are trying to negotiate because there are innocent people here, there are civilians. they literally want to kill us".
Iris Varela, Venezuela's minister with responsibility for prisons, rejoiced at the news that police had finally cornered Perez "like a rat".
However, Venezuelan authorities said the polices forces came under attack by Perez's group as they were negotiating a surrender, claiming the group tried to detonate a vehicle loaded with explosives. "Where is the courage he had to attack military units, kill and injure officers and steal weapons?" she wrote on Twitter.
The Perez group also faces charges for a December 18 attack on a national guard installation in San Pedro de los Altos, in Miranda state.
The Venezuelan Program of Education and Action on Human Rights has called for the government to provide a full report.