A mystery sonic weapon in Havana has reportedly attacked a greater number of U.S. and Canadian diplomats and their families than originally reported.
More than 10 U.S. diplomats and their families received treatment and some suffered long-term injuries including hearing loss from the attacks which began in mid-November 2016 and stopped this spring, CNN reported Sunday, citing two unidentified U.S. officials.
Other diplomats chose to leave their posts early due to the harassment, according to government officials. However, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. Embassy in Havana remained “fully operational.”
In June, five Canadian diplomats and family members reported symptoms associated with the sonic attacks, though the information wasn’t disclosed until earlier this month. At that time, U.S. officials explained some diplomats and their family in Cuba had complained of “health attacks.”
“We are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana,” Canadian spokesperson Brianne Maxwell said in a statement earlier this month. “The government is actively working — including with U.S. and Cuban authorities — to ascertain the cause.”
The sonic weapon caused immediate physical sensations, though it was not always within the realm of audible sound and sometimes took place while the diplomats were asleep. The symptoms included nausea, headaches and hearing loss. When it was heard, it was loud and made a noise similar to buzzing insects, the article explained.
The U.S. and Cuba kept the information secret at first, but earlier this month Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed the issue.
“We hold the Cuban authorities responsible for finding out who is carrying out these health attacks on not just our diplomats but, as you’ve seen now, there are other cases with other diplomats involved,” Tillerson said in early August.
Though U.S. officials said the Cuban government was taking the issue seriously, especially given the fragile nature of U.S-Cuban relations at present, the possibility existed that a third country could be involved, perhaps working in concert with some Cuban officials.
“I doubt that it would be an intentional effort to derail normalization between people who opposed it,” said William LeoGrande, co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana.” “It’s more likely that people in the Cuban security forces might have done a favor for friendly intelligence services without having cleared it all the way up the chain of command.”
For their part, the Cuban government issued a statement saying, “Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families, without exception.”