Soldiers battled for three hours against a small band of anti-government fighters who snuck onto a Venezuelan army base, apparently intent on fomenting an uprising, President Nicolas Maduro said.
Troops killed two of the intruders, wounded another and captured seven, but 10 others got away, the embattled leader announced in his weekly broadcast on state television.
“We know where they are headed and all of our military and police force is deployed,” Mr Maduro said. He said he would ask for “the maximum penalty for those who participated in this terrorist attack”.
The incident happened during the early hours of Sunday morning at the Paramacay base in the central city of Valencia. Residents who live nearby said they heard repeated bursts of gunfire starting around 4.30am.
A video showing more than a dozen men dressed in military fatigues, some carrying rifles, began circulating widely on social media around that time. In the recording, a man who identified himself as Captain Juan Caguaripano said the men were members of the military who oppose Mr Maduro’s socialist government and called on military units to declare themselves in open rebellion.
“This is not a coup d’etat,” the man said. “This is a civic and military action to re-establish the constitutional order.”
Twenty men entered the base, catching soldiers on night watch by surprise, Mr Maduro said. The intruders managed to reach the base’s weapons depot before an alarm sounded, alerting troops to the incursion.
He said 10 of the invaders then escaped, some carrying off arms, while those left behind exchanged gunfire with soldiers until about 8am before all were either killed or captured.
“Today we had to defeat terrorism with bullets,” Mr Maduro said.
Residents who live nearby and saw the dissident group’s video online gathered around the military base chanting “Freedom!” Other protests also emerged spontaneously around Valencia into the afternoon.
Troops dispersed the protesters with tear gas and a man was fatally shot at a demonstration less than a mile from the base, said Haydee Franco, coordinating secretary of the Progressive Advance party. More than 120 people have been reported killed in unrest that began in early April.
Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez characterised the attackers as a “paramilitary” expedition, saying the intruders were civilians dressed in uniforms.
He did not identify any of the participants, but said they included a…