Two police officers and several "terrorists" have been killed in an operation to capture a helicopter pilot accused of leading an armed rebellion in Venezuela last year, officials say.

Venezuelan forces surrounded a house in the town of El Junquito, near the capital, Caracas, as they targeted the "cell" linked to pilot Oscar Pérez.

The authorities said they had arrested five people who they accuse of being part of a criminal group.

It is unclear what became of Mr Pérez.

Prominent government member Diosdado Cabello tweeted that Mr Pérez had opened fire on police.

Mr Pérez was wanted after he used a stolen helicopter to throw grenades at government buildings on 27 June.

In footage posted on social media on Monday, Mr Perez said he had offered to turn himself in but that he believed authorities were initially trying to kill him rather than negotiate his surrender.

"They're shooting at us with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades]," he said.

"There are civilians inside here. We said we'd turn ourselves in, but they don't want to let us turn ourselves in. They want to kill us," Mr Pérez added.

He then describes how those at the property with him were forced to "crouch down", adding: "Now we're negotiating."

He ended the video, which he uploaded to the photo sharing site Instagram, with a message for the people of Venezuela, who he urged not to "lose hope".

Who is Oscar Pérez?
Mr Pérez was on the run after launching a helicopter attack on the Venezuelan Supreme Court during opposition street protests last year.

He became the country's most talked-about man and appeared in an online video on 5 July vowing to keep up his attacks on the government.

President Nicolás Maduro declared him a terrorist, accusing him of stealing a military helicopter and dropping grenades on the court to mount a coup.

Now in his mid-30s, Mr Pérez has been a member of the forensic police force, known as the CICPC, for 15 years.

The Venezuelan media emphasise that he is a highly trained agent, part of the Special Actions Brigade (BAE), where he is chief of operations for the Air Force division.

He has been pictured scuba-diving while brandishing a high-calibre weapon underwater and showing off his skills by shooting a target over his shoulder, behind his back, using only a make-up mirror as a guide.

The government has also accused Mr Pérez of having ties to the United States, specifically the CIA, which it also often says is trying to overthrow it.

As yet, Mr Pérez has no confirmed links with any international or domestic groups, although he has claimed to be part of an anti-government coalition of military, police and civilians.



An aide to Zimbabwe's former president, Robert Mugabe, has said he feared civilians could "drag out and lynch" the leader in a "Libyan scenario".

During Mr Mugabe's last week in office, he was under house arrest as the military staged a takeover which would eventually oust him.

"I started visualising an image of Muammar Gaddafi," Mr Mugabe's former spokesman George Charamba said.

He was speaking to Zimbabwe's privately owned Daily News site.

Recalling the last days of Mr Mugabe's 37-year rule, Mr Charamba said the 93-year-old wanted "to go on his own terms" and had to be warned of the dangers following the military's intervention and the outbreak of protests.

While Mr Mugabe was held at his lavish Blue Roof mansion, negotiations over his future were being thrashed out between military generals, Catholic priests, political aides and South African envoys.

Mr Charamba says military officials informed the group that tens of thousands of protesters calling for the president's resignation could target Mr Mugabe personally.

"It was possible because the soldiers said 'we cannot turn our guns on civilians who are marching against the president and spill blood,'" the Daily News reports Mr Charamba as saying.

Libya's former leader Muammar Gaddafi was captured then killed in 2011 following an uprising against his four-decade rule.



Key powers involved in Syria's civil war have criticised the US for helping an allied Kurdish-led militia set up a 30,000-strong "border security force".

Turkey's president vowed to "suffocate" efforts to train the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and create what he called a "terror army".

Turkey considers Kurdish fighters, prominent in the SDF, to be terrorists.

Syria's government decried the "blatant assault" on its sovereignty, and Russia warned it could lead to partition.

With US help, the SDF has captured tens of thousands of square kilometres of territory from Islamic State (IS) militants.

In October, the alliance took full control of the northern city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the "caliphate" declared by the jihadist group in 2014.

Since then, SDF fighters have been advancing southwards along the eastern side of the Euphrates river valley, clearing the last remaining militants from the desert area.

On Saturday, a spokesman for the US-led multinational coalition against IS confirmed that it was working with the SDF to establish and train a new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF).


"Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF's inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000," Col Thomas Veale told The Defense Post.

About half of the force would be made up of Kurdish and Arab SDF fighters who were no longer involved in the battle against IS, he added. The recruitment of the other half is under way.

The BSF will deploy along sections of Syria's northern border with Turkey under SDF control, as well as the eastern bank of the Euphrates, which effectively serves as the dividing line between the SDF and Syrian pro-government forces.


On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US had acknowledged it was "in the process of creating a terror army on our border" and promised to put an end to it.

"It is for us to suffocate this terror army before it is born," he said.

Mr Erdogan added that preparations were complete for a Turkish military operation against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in north-western Syria, and that it could be launched at any moment.

Turkey has consistently opposed the coalition's support for the SDF because the force is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades. Washington disagrees and insists the YPG has been vital to the battle against IS.


Earlier on Monday, the Syrian government called the creation of the SDF border force "a blatant breach of Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity and a flagrant violation of international law".

"What the American administration has done comes in the context of its destructive policy in the region to fragment countries... and impede any solutions to the crises," an official at the foreign ministry was cited as saying by the Sana news agency.

Russia, which backs the Syrian government, described the US move as a "very serious issue". Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow he was concerned that "a course has been set for the partition of Syria".

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