Sixteen US staff were hurt in Cuba embassy 'health attack'

A vintage US car passes in front of the US Embassy in Havana.
A vintage US car passes in front of the US Embassy in Havana.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Mysterious "incidents" caused physical symptoms in at least 16 Americans linked to the US embassy in Cuba, the State Department said on Thursday (Aug 24), in what media reports have described as an "acoustic attack."

The State Department earlier this month said Americans serving at the US embassy in Havana had experienced physical symptoms caused by unspecified "incidents" starting as far back as late 2016.

A US government official said in August that several colleagues at the US embassy in Havana were evacuated back to the United States for hearing problems and other symptoms.

Some subsequently got hearing aids, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that 16 or more US government employees and family members based in Cuba had experienced symptoms of some sort, a number that was previously not known.

"We can confirm that at least 16... members of our embassy community have experienced some kinds of symptoms," Nauert said.

Those affected received medical care in the United States and Cuba, and some of those who experienced symptoms have decided to remain in Havana, Nauert said.

 

CBS reported this week that Americans and Canadians working in Cuba had been diagnosed with hearing loss, nausea, headaches and balance disorders and conditions as serious as mild traumatic brain injury and damage to the central nervous system.

Citing a source familiar with the incidents, CBS said officials are investigating whether the diplomats were targets of some form of sonic attack directed at their homes.

"The incidents are no longer occurring," Nauert said.

Cuba has denied involvement in the incidents, and said this month that it is investigating the US allegations.

The State Department has not blamed Cuba for the attacks, but did ask two Cuban diplomats to leave Washington in May.