CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s military said it seized three abandoned Colombian light combat vessels that soldiers found on Saturday while patrolling the Orinoco river, several days after the government accused its neighbor of aiding a failed invasion.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry said the boats were equipped with machine guns and ammunition, but had no crew, adding they were discovered as part of a nationwide operation to guarantee Venezuela’s “freedom and sovereignty.”
Colombia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
On Wednesday, Venezuelan state television broadcast an interrogation video of a former U.S. soldier, in which he said a Florida security firm had hired him to train dissident Venezuelan troops in Colombia for an operation to seize control of Caracas’ airport and capture President Nicolas Maduro.
Authorities said they arrested the man, Luke Denman, along with a second U.S. citizen and 11 others, as they attempted to enter Venezuela by boat on Monday from Colombia. The government said a separate raid attempt the day before left eight people dead.
Maduro on Wednesday accused Colombian President Ivan Duque of enabling the operation, which Duque denied.
Reporting by Corina Pons and Angus Berwick; Additional reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Editing by Daniel Wallis