An apparent attempt to invade Venezuela involving several Americans remains shrouded in confusion as the two countries traded accusations but offered little new information about the mysterious mission.
Venezuela's foreign minister said two Americans, both former US Special Operations soldiers, were "confessing without any reservations" after being arrested by security forces during the aborted invasion. He did not describe what the men told authorities about the operation, which President Nicolás Maduro described as an assassination plot.
US President Donald Trump denied any US involvement in the incident, saying: "It has nothing to do with our government."
The State Department said it could not comment on the reported arrests, citing privacy considerations, but added that "there is a major disinformation campaign under way by the Maduro regime, making it difficult to separate facts from propaganda".
The two men were captured, along with six others, on Monday when the small boat they were travelling in attempted to land along Venezuela's coastline, only to be met by Venezuelan military and police forces. On Sunday, eight others, apparently Venezuelans, were killed and two were captured in a separate landing attempt, according to Venezuelan reports.
The incident added to more than a year of growing tensions as the Trump administration, accusing Mr Maduro of human rights abuses, corruption and drug-trafficking, has tried to force him from office with economic sanctions and criminal indictments.
A US Army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Ortiz, said service records confirm that the two captured Americans, Airan Berry and Luke Denman, are Special Forces veterans, as is Jordan Goudreau, the head of a Florida security services company who first announced the operation in a video on Sunday.
Mr Goudreau, in an interview with the 'Washington Post', said Mr Berry and Mr Denman were "supervisors" of a force he said numbered about 60 Venezuelans. Most, if not all of them, were believed to be military and police defectors living in camps in Colombia, near the Venezuelan border.
Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan legislator and opposition leader recognised as "interim president" by the US and more than 50 other countries, lashed out at Mr Maduro for staging what he called a "massacre".
"They knew about this and were waiting to massacre them," Mr Guaidó said in a virtual session of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. "Nicolás Maduro, you are responsible. The regime knew about that operation, you infiltrated it and waited to massacre them."
The CIA declined to comment. The State Department statement, which described the unfolding situation as a "melodrama", said officials would be "looking closely into the role of the Maduro regime... and especially of the very large Cuban intelligence apparatus in Venezuela". (© Washington Post)