Captured US mercenary claims he planned to abduct Maduro

An American mercenary captured after a bungled attempt to topple Nicolás Maduro has claimed he was on a mission to seize control of Venezuela’s main airport in order to abduct its authoritarian leader – and he alleged that was acting under the command of Donald Trump.

Luke Denman was one of two US citizens seized by Venezuelan security forces this week after what appears to have been a catastrophically conceived bid to overthrow Maduro by sneaking into the South American country in a fleet of battered fishing boats.

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In Washington, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the US would “use every tool” to get the two captured Americans back, and raised eyebrows by saying there was no US government “direct” involvement in the strange raid.

“If we had been involved, it would have gone differently,” Pompeo told reporters shortly before Denman was shown on Venezuelan state television. “As for who bankrolled it, we’re not prepared to share any more information about what we know took place. We’ll unpack that at an appropriate time. We’ll share that information that makes good sense.”

Asked about what action the administration would take, the secretary of state said: “We will start the process of trying to figure a way – if in fact these are Americans that are there – that we can figure a path forward. We want to get every American back. If the Maduro regime decides to hold them, we’ll use every tool that we have available to try and get them back. It’s our responsibility to do so.”

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