Two State Department employees who fell ill while working at the U.S. embassy in Havana are believed to have been the targets of “acoustic attacks,” according to multiple reports. The employees suffered a “variety of physical symptoms,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday. She wouldn’t elaborate on the ailments, but did say that two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the U.S. in retaliation.
“The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva Convention to protect our diplomats,” Nauert said. “That is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours, why we take this so seriously.”
Nauert said the process of determining the cause of the “symptoms” is ongoing, but the AP reports “a covert sonic weapon” is to blame. The weapon resulted in “severe hearing loss” for the victims, the report says. CNN corroborated that with its own report saying an “acoustic attack” was responsible for the health issues.
The AP says U.S. diplomats in Havana “began suffering unexplained losses of hearing loss” in late 2016. It goes on:
Some of the diplomats’ symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.
The FBI is reportedly looking into the issue, with the Cuban government high atop the list of suspects. In a statement Wednesday, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry denied any wrongdoing. “The Ministry emphatically emphasizes that Cuba has never allowed … Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception,” it said in a statement translated by CNN.
But, as the AP points out, the Cuban government isn’t the only foreign nation suspected in this case. Officials are also reportedly looking into whether the attack was carried out by Russians, because no bizarre tale of international intrigue would be complete without them.