USA orders 15 Cuban diplomats expelled following 'acoustic' attacks

Jon Howard
October 4, 2017

The State Department said Tuesday it is expelling 15 officials from Cuba's embassy in Washington in response to a series of mysterious "attacks" medically affecting nearly two dozen American diplomats, APA reports quoting CNN. The secretary of state clarified that he meant to "maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba", even amid the seemingly tense investigation.

The State Department declined to comment on an expulsion plan, except to say that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "continues to evaluate steps that the Department can take to ensure the Cuban government is accountable to its responsibility to protect diplomats". "This is to ensure that there is an equitable impact to our embassies' ability to operate, and to underscore to the Cubans that they must take more action to protect our people on the ground", the official said.

After the departure of the Cuban diplomats, the number of personnel working in both embassies will be "roughly very close to each other", an official from the U.S. State Department told reporters.

Diplomats have been treated for ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance problems, visual complaints, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping, a senior United States official said.

The Trump administration has said that 21 USA diplomats have been affected, but according to the three journalists, investigators discovered that numerous first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the Havana embassy. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that United States intelligence officials in Cuba first experienced the health issues.

USA citizens are being urged not to travel to Cuba because of the sonic threat. The United States has not blamed Cuba, which has denied any involvement and has cooperated with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents dispatched there.

The move followed an announcement on Friday that the United States was sharply reducing its diplomatic presence in Cuba as it warned U.S. citizens not to visit because of attacks that have caused hearing loss, dizziness and fatigue in USA embassy personnel.

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The U.S. Department of State ordered 15 Cuban officials from the embassy in Washington, D.C., to leave the country. The US said that since some workers had been attacked in Havana hotels, it couldn't assure Americans who visit Cuba that they wouldn't suffer attacks if they stay in hotels there.

Still, the administration has pointedly not blamed Cuba for perpetrating the attacks, and officials have spent weeks weighing how to minimize the risk for Americans in Cuba without unnecessarily harming relations or falling into an adversary's trap. The State Department had said the embassy was halting regular visa operations for Cubans seeking to visit the United States and would offer only emergency services to USA citizens.

That designation would prevent them ever from returning.

The State Department gave the Cubans a list of which diplomats they wanted expelled.

The US request marks yet another major setback for relations between the US and Cuba, two countries that only recently renewed diplomatic relations after a half-century of hostility.

Cuba, the United States and Canada have investigated the attacks, but the probe has not yielded any answers about how they were carried out or who was responsible for them.

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