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Detained ex-US soldier says he was part of plot to 'oust Maduro'

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Accusations: Nicolas Maduro said Juan Guaido was behind a military raid designed to oust him. Photo: Miraflores Palace presidential press office via AP

Accusations: Nicolas Maduro said Juan Guaido was behind a military raid designed to oust him. Photo: Miraflores Palace presidential press office via AP

AP

Accusations: Nicolas Maduro said Juan Guaido was behind a military raid designed to oust him. Photo: Miraflores Palace presidential press office via AP

A former US soldier captured in Venezuela said he had been contracted by a Florida security firm to seize control of Caracas's airport and bring in a plane to fly President Nicolas Maduro to the United States.

Venezuelan authorities on Monday arrested the man, Luke Denman, along with fellow US citizen Airan Berry and 11 others, in what Mr Maduro called a failed plot co-ordinated with Washington to oust him. During questioning broadcast on state television, Mr Denman said the firm, Silvercorp USA, had signed a contract with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to seek Mr Maduro's removal.

A Guaido adviser told CNN he had signed an exploratory agreement, but it had never been finalised and the opposition did not support the attempted incursion.

US President Donald Trump has denied involvement.

A senior Trump administration official said Mr Maduro's accusations of a US role "are not credible" and the administration remained focused on "achieving a peaceful, democratic transition in Venezuela".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US government would use "every tool" to secure the Americans' return, if they were being held in Venezuela.

In the video, Mr Denman (34) answered questions from a person off-camera speaking in English. Mr Denman, who looked calm and wore a grey T-shirt, said his mission was to secure the airport and establish outer security. He did not give details on how his group planned to get Mr Maduro on a plane. It was unclear when or where the video was made, and where Mr Denman and Mr Berry are being held.

In March, the US Department of Justice charged Mr Maduro and a dozen other current and former Venezuelan officials with "narco-terrorism" and the Trump administration offered a $15m (€13.8m) reward for information leading to his arrest.

Irish Independent