Sonic attack: ‘US may close Cuba embassy over health attacks,’ says Rex Tillerson

Despite an investigation involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Cuban authorities, there is still no full explanation as to the cause of the incidents since late 2016. Related News

The Trump administration is considering closing down the recently reopened US Embassy in Havana following a string of unexplained incidents harming the health of American diplomats in Cuba, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says. Tillerson’s comments were the strongest indication to date that the United States might mount a major diplomatic response, potentially jeopardising the historic restart of relations between the US and Cuba. The two former foes reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after a half-century of estrangement.

“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said of a possible embassy closure. “It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered. We’ve brought some of those people home. It’s under review.” Of the 21 medically confirmed US individuals affected, diplomats and their families, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, The Associated Press has reported.

Some victims felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, leading investigators to consider a potential “sonic attack.” Others heard nothing but later developed symptoms. Tillerson once called the events “health attacks,” but the State Department has since used the term “incidents” while emphasising the US still doesn’t know what has occurred. Cuba has denied any involvement or responsibility but stressed that it’s eager to help the US resolve the matter.

The US has said the tally of Americans affected could grow as more cases are potentially detected. The last reported incident was on Aug. 21, according to a US official briefed on the matter. The official wasn’t authorised to discuss the matter publicly and requested anonymity.

A decision to shutter the embassy, even temporarily, would deal a demoralising blow to the delicate detente that President and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced in late 2014. The next year, embassies were reopened and restrictions on travel and commerce eased, signs of a warming relationship that displeased some hard-liners in Cuba’s government. President Donald Trump has reversed some of the changes, but left many in place.

Tillerson spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation” as world leaders and top diplomats descended on New York for annual UN General Assembly meetings. President Donald Trump will give his first speech on the major global platform this week.

Cuba is also represented at the UN, but it’s not expected Trump will meet with any Cuban leaders or officials during his visit. The US hasn’t identified either a culprit or a device. Investigators have explored the possibility of sonic waves, an electromagnetic weapon, or an advanced spying operation gone awry, US officials briefed on the probe told the AP. The US hasn’t ruled out that a third country or a rogue faction of Cuba’s security services might be involved. In Washington, lawmakers in Congress have been raising alarm over the incidents, with some calling for the embassy to be closed.

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