Over the last 24 hours, reports are coming down the grapevine claiming that five U.S. diplomats and at least one Canadian envoy have fallen ill, all suffering from acute hearing loss, headaches, and nausea. The State Department has expelled two diplomats from Cuba's Embassy in Washington following a series of unexplained incidents in Cuba that left USA officials there with physical symptoms.
The diplomats reportedly may have been targeted by a covert sonic device causing hearing loss, an allegation Cuba rejected.
Later, after the departure of some American staff, United States officials asked two Cuban diplomats to leave Washington in response.
U.S. state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says investigations are continuing and stressed that America was not directly blaming Cuba.
Of the reported victims, she said: "What I can tell you is that these were U.S. government personnel who were in Cuba, in Havana, on official duty on behalf of the USA government".
Canada and the U.S. are actively working together with Cuba to ascertain the cause of the "unusual symptoms", Canadian officials said in the statement. There's been no documented use of such a device for the purposes of attacking diplomatic personnel, so if the American investigators are right, then this would be the very first deployment of one.
"Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception".
It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was "unjustified and baseless".More news: 5 deaths associated with gastric-bypass procedure spur FDA warning
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US officials took pains to say tourists were not impacted; the Cuban Foreign Ministry said it was informed February 17 and launched an investigation.
US officials told The Associated Press that about five diplomats, several with spouses, had been affected and that no children had been involved.
The specificity of the targets, and the hearing loss associated with the illness, has led both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Diplomatic Security Service to conclude that a powerful acoustic device was the trigger.
United States and Cuba have long history of undiplomatic relations While the harm caused by most acoustic weapons is minimal, some experts said they are not aware of what kind of sound may have caused those symptoms.
Cuba employs a state security apparatus that keeps many people under surveillance and US diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island.
On Wednesday, a U.S. government official said that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents will be allowed onto the island with Cuba's cooperation to investigate the incidents.
State department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said investigations are continuing and stressed Washington was not directly blaming Cuba. "Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats".