Thursday, 21 September, 2017

'Acoustics Device' May Have Sickened Diplomats At Cuban Embassy

U.S. says two Cuban diplomats expelled after 'incidents' in Havana US government personnel in Havana report "incidents" causing physical symptoms
Connie Andrews | 11 August, 2017, 01:24

The American diplomats suffered a "variety of physical symptoms" - some so serious that they necessitated a return to the U.S., according to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. She said the department does not have any definitive answers about "the source or the cause" of these incidents, and that "some of our people have had the option of leaving Cuba as a result, for medical reasons".

"The safety and security of American citizens at home and overseas is our top priority", Nauert said while she emphasized the Cuban government is obligated under the Geneva Convention to protect USA diplomats.

State Department officials told CNN that one American employee in Havana may have permanent hearing loss from the alleged attacks in 2016.

The report comes a day after the USA expelled two Cuban diplomats after a number of United States embassy staff were forced to leave Havana because of unspecified medical symptoms that were first reported in 2016. The AP also reports an investigation concluded that an advanced sonic weapon placed in or around the diplomats' homes was to blame.

On Wednesday, Nauert said the physical symptoms are non-life threatening.

The hearing loss has been blamed on a secret sonic weapon and is just one a series of freakish incidents that have upset United States officials working in Cuba.

On Wednesday evening, the Associated Press reported that the individuals who left the American embassy in Havana did so "with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device".

The rapprochement, which had been mediated by Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, has already been troubled by Donald Trump's moves to tighten travel restrictions and trade embargoes against Cuba. The mysterious incidents led to the United States expelling two Cuba officials from their Washington, D.C. embassy.

Later Wednesday, the Cuban government confirmed the report.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Department of State made a vague statement insinuating foul play by the government of Cuba.

The Cuban Foreign Relations Ministry (MINREX) responded to the incident in a statement published in Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). She added a reminder that "the Cuban government has a responsibility and obligation to protect our diplomats".

Investigators are also considering the possibility that a third country, such as Russian Federation, was behind the incidents, officials familiar with the inquiry told AP. "We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation now under way".

"The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades", he said.

CBS News has learned as many as eight or nine USA diplomats had their assignments cut short because of their ailments.

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