VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro has narrowly escaped a series of explosions at a public event.
Several drones with explosives detonated close to the country’s leader while he was giving a speech broadcast on national television, according to the country’s Information Minister.
State television channel NTN24 showed Mr Maduro abruptly cut short during a speech in the capital of Caracas on Saturday.
At one point in the footage, he and others suddenly look upwards, appearing startled.
Dozens of soldiers in formation are then seen running in different directions before the broadcast was abruptly cut off.
Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez described it as an attempted hit job on the leftist leader.
“This is an attack against President Nicolas Maduro,” Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez said in a brief televised appearance after the event. “All of the work we have done immediately after has allowed us to establish with evidence that it was an assassination attempt.”
Mr Maduro was unharmed, but seven National Guard soldiers were injured, the Minister said.
He did not say who was responsible, or whether the drones had dropped bombs or been used as missiles on the leader.
But firefighteers have disputed the government’s version of events, denying there was an assassination attempt on the leader.
Three officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the incident was actually a gas tank explosion inside an apartment.
Smoke could be seen coming out of a building window at the site of the incident.
Mr Maduro had been giving a speech during the celebration of the Nation Guard’s 81st anniversary, wearing the presidential banner.
“To the conscious Venezuela, we are going to bet for the good of our country, the hour of the economic recovery has come and we need…’ Mr Maduro was saying before the cameras suddenly moved away from him.
He was standing next to his wife Cilia Flores and several high-ranking military officials for the televised event.
Mr Maduro has managed split opinion almost as much as his predecessor in office, Hugo Chávez.
Since assuming office in 2013, Mr Maduro’s administration has drawn widespread condemnation from a string of nations worldwide for undermining democracy and violating human rights in his country.
His opponents paint him as a ruthless despot who detains his political rivals on overly harsh charges pressed by a judiciary under his party’s control, while his followers say he is protecting the country from another coup.
His re-election in May came amid a deep economic crisis which has been driving hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans from the oil-rich country.
However, there is still a loyal core of people who support Mr Maduro and his United Socialist Party (PSUV), saying Venezuela’s problems are caused not by the government but by imperialist forces such as the US.