Venezuelan authorities have detained two US citizens working with a US military veteran who has claimed responsibility for a failed armed incursion into the oil producing country, President Nicolas Maduro has said.
In a state television address, Mr Maduro said authorities arrested 13 "terrorists" yesterday allegedly involved in a plot he said was coordinated with Washington to enter the South American country via the Caribbean coast and oust him.
Eight people were killed during the foiled incursion attempt on Sunday, Venezuelan authorities said.
Mr Maduro showed what he said were the US passports and other identification cards belonging to Airan Berry and Luke Denman.
He said they were in custody and had been working with Jordan Goudreau, an American military veteran who leads a Florida-based security company called Silvercorp USA.
"They were playing Rambo. They were playing hero," Mr Maduro said, adding that Venezuelan authorities had caught wind of the plot before its execution.
Mr Goudreau, who identified himself as an organiser of the invasion on Sunday, told Reuters yesterday that Mr Berry and Mr Denman were also involved.
"They're working with me. Those are my guys," he said by telephone.
The US State Department did not provide any immediate comment on the alleged arrests. US officials have strongly denied any US government involvement in the incursions.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido cast doubt on the government's version of Sunday's events, insisting Mr Maduro is seeking to distract from other problems in recent days including a deadly prison riot and a violent gang battle in Caracas.
Mr Guaido's communications team denied media reports that Mr Guaido had hired Silvercorp to remove Mr Maduro by force, adding the opposition leader and his allies "have no relationship with or responsibility for the actions of the company Silvercorp".
The US has imposed tough economic sanctions against Venezuela in an effort to oust Mr Maduro, whom it accuses of having rigged elections in 2018.
Mr Maduro's government says the US wants to control Venezuela's massive oil reserves.