US Officials in Cuba Suffer Mystery Illness, Igniting Fresh Diplomatic Storm

US government personnel in Havana report

Earlier on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department told reporters that the exact nature of the incidents were unclear, but Americans serving in Cuba had returned to the United States for non life-threatening "medical reasons".

A number of American diplomats working at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba have returned home after suffering hearing loss and other injuries over the past year. It's in response to a series of incidents that left American diplomats in Cuba with physical symptoms.

The Associated Press, one of the few Western news outlets with offices in the Cuban capital, reported from Havana that the injuries may have been caused by sonic equipment that Cuban intelligence officers installed in the U.S. Embassy or residences of its staff.

A senior federal law enforcement official tells NBC News that several U.S agencies are investigating allegations that the Cubans directed some kind of ultrasound energy at US diplomats which left several with damaged hearing.

Meanwhile, Washington and Havana had recently re-established ties in 2015, following the 50-year conflict between the two countries. "We take those incidents very seriously and there is an investigation now underway".

Some of those affected chose to return to the USA, said Nauert, prompting the administration to expel two Cuban diplomats from the embassy in Washington in May.

"Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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Last fall, about five diplomatic staffers and several spouses began experiencing hearing loss that was serious enough to prompt the investigation. "That is why we are being very careful here with what we say".

The embassy in Washington where the Cuban diplomats worked before they were expelled.

In a statement, the Cuban foreign affairs ministry said it launched an investigation after it was informed of the situation by United States officials in February.

The symptoms have not affected US visitors to Cuba, only State Department officials.

Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy.

Relations between the United States and Cuba were unfrozen in 2015 by US then-President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro.

It stressed that it had treated the issue "with utmost seriousness" and insisted that Cuba complies rigorously with the 1961 Vienna Convention, which applies special protections to diplomats. All of facets of the Cuban embargo that had been loosened by Barack Obama, including a ban on tourism, would continue to be enforced, he said.

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