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Guaido aide accused of leading terrorist cell

Caracas: The Venezuelan government has accused the detained chief of staff of self-proclaimed interim head of state Juan Guaido of leading a terrorist cell.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol made his remarks on Thursday after Roberto Marrero was arrested earlier in the day at his home in Caracas, reports Efe news.

In a message aired by state television, Reverol said Marrero was directly responsible for organizing criminal groups.

He added that a cache of “war weapons”, as well as “cash in foreign currencies”, were seized at Marrero’s residence during the early Thursday raid.

Reverol said intelligence services had “once again dismantled a terrorist cell that was planning to carry out a series of targeted attacks and to that end had hired Colombian and Central American mercenaries”.

Meanwhile, embattled President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that he would not hesitate to arrest members of “terrorist groups”.

“I want it to be clear that the Bolivarian and revolutionary Venezuelan government will not hesitate to combat terrorist groups, to put them in jail. What they’re doing is not politics, it’s simply terrorism,” said Maduro.

Venezuela was hit this month by a nearly week-long nationwide blackout that the government says was the result of opposition “sabotage”.

Guaido, who is the speaker of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly and has been recognised as the oil-rich nation’s legitimate leader by the US and around 50 other countries, has described the detention of his senior aide as a “kidnapping”, adding that he will not make any changes to his schedule due to the development.

The opposition leader was referring to plans to drum up support in different states for a massive nationwide march in Caracas. However, the date is yet to be finalised.

The US denounced the action targeting Guaido’s inner circle.

“The US condemns raids by Maduro’s security services and detention of Roberto Marrero, Chief of Staff to Interim President @jguaido. We call for his immediate release. We will hold accountable those involved,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet.