16 US diplomats in Havana suffer mystery illness

While the cause of the injuries to Americans linked with the United States Embassy (left) in Cuba remains a mystery, the State Department suspects an "acoustic attack" and the exact origin is still being investigated.
While the cause of the injuries to Americans linked with the United States Embassy (left) in Cuba remains a mystery, the State Department suspects an "acoustic attack" and the exact origin is still being investigated.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • At least 16 Americans linked with the United States Embassy in Cuba suffered injuries, such as hearing loss, while serving in Havana, the State Department said.

Provided on Thursday, the figure is the first accounting of what the US government suspects was a targeting of its diplomats. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has confirmed that Americans serving in Havana began having symptoms that were at first unexplained, but later found to be related.

Diplomats first reported having problems late last year, at the end of the Obama administration. It continued into the first months of the Trump administration.

Initially, five Americans, and at least one Canadian, were reported to have been injured.

The cause remains a mystery. The State Department suspects an "acoustic attack", though the exact origin is still being investigated. The Cuban government has denied targeting US diplomats and is cooperating with the probe, officials said.

CBS News reported this week that it had examined medical records of some affected diplomats. Doctors diagnosed brain injuries leading to nausea, hearing loss, headaches and balance loss.

In May, the US expelled two Cuban diplomats in response to the incidents that apparently happened, among other places, in the Cuban government housing provided to foreign diplomats.

Although the State Department has not accused the Cuban government of being directly responsible for harming Americans, it says Havana failed its Vienna Convention obligation to keep foreign diplomats safe.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline '16 US diplomats in Havana suffer mystery illness'. Print Edition | Subscribe