Venezuela says hitmen captured in plot to kill President Maduro

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela said on Monday it derailed a plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro, arresting two hitmen it said wanted to assassinate the leftist leader on orders from a Colombian right-wing ex-president.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said at a briefing that Caracas arrested the alleged hitmen, two Colombians, on August 13.

The pair, Víctor Johan Guache Mosquera and Erick Leonardo Huertas Rios, were part of "a group of 10 men who were coming to carry out the murder of the president," working with former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, Mr Rodriguez charged.

They were part of a support team for a "highly experienced hitman" identified by the alias David, whom they reported to directly and who was to personally carry out the assassination, the minister said.

David, Mr Rodriguez charged, was taking orders from a Colombian who is in prison, Oscar Alcantara Gonzalez, alias "Gancho Mosco", who allegedly works for Uribe.

"We have no doubt that Alvaro Uribe Velez has knowledge of all these things ... And we are not the least bit surprised that he is the one giving orders through operatives," Mr Rodriguez alleged.

The Colombian ex-president, who held office from 2002-2010, vehemently denied the plot, branding the allegations "slurs".

In an interview with Colombian television, Mr Uribe said he would rather talk about "important issues and not the slurs of the dictatorship."

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost the April presidential vote to Mr Maduro and is contesting the results, shrugged off the alleged plot, saying: "Nobody believes that tall tale."

Mr Rodriguez in June alleged that Mr Maduro was targeted by a separate assassination plot launched from Colombia and the United States.

Venezuela made frequent allegations of assassination plots against the late leftist President Hugo Chavez and has continued to do so under Mr Maduro, his handpicked successor.

Official results gave Mr Maduro, 50, a razor-thin margin of just 1.5 percent over Mr Capriles, 41, in the April 14 election.

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