Hearing loss of US diplomats in Cuba blamed on sonic device

US government personnel in Havana report

There was freakish news out of the U.S. State Department on Wednesday as the Associated Press reported that U.S. diplomats had to return home from Cuba after experiencing "physical symptoms", which included "potentially permanent hearing loss". The State Department says the USA responded by expelling two Cuban diplomats from Washington in May.

"We don't have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of the matter", she said.

In Cuba, an acoustic attack may be to blame for severe hearing loss among U.S diplomats previous year, though officials are uncertain of the cause the injuries.

State Department workers stationed at the USA embassy in Cuba were victims of a silent "acoustic attack" - in which sonic weapons were used to induce hearing loss, officials said Wednesday.

It comes a day after the U.S. said its diplomats in Havana were experiencing odd physical symptoms.

A small number of Americans began reporting symptoms at the end of 2016, and a few were either removed for medical treatment in the USA or asked to leave, State Department officials were quoted as saying by the Washington Post on Wednesday.

USA investigators have concluded that the country's diplomats were being hit with an advanced device that can send out sound that is inaudible but can cause huge damage to the ears of a person around them, which appears to have been left either inside or near the diplomats' houses.

The unexplained symptoms ultimately led the US officials to leave Cuba.

Reports suggest the envoys could have been targeted by a covert sonic device that causes hearing loss.

According to the Associated Press, the diplomats' hearing loss could have been linked to sound deafining emitted by some kind of sonic device.

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Relations between the U.S. and Cuba were restored in 2015 after a half-century break by then USA president Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.

Nauert confirmed during Wednesday's briefing that the investigation is ongoing and authorities are still trying to determine what afflicted US Embassy staffers.

She said two Cuban diplomats were expelled from Washington in retaliation in late May.

Investigators are also considering the possibility that a third country, such as Russian Federation, was behind the incidents, officials familiar with the inquiry told AP.

"The Ministry categorically emphasizes that 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". "Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats".

Cuban officials have pledged to investigate the incidents as well and take appropriate action, the officials told the Post.

It is understood that the two expelled Cuban diplomats left Washington DC in May, the BBC's Will Grant reports from Havana.

She added: "We had to bring some Americans home or some Americans chose to come home as a result of that".

The incident threatens to set back relations between the two countries, which President Barack Obama took major strides to fix in 2015.

Relations with the country have become a significant issue in U.S. politics, he explained, thanks in part to the population of Cuban exiles in Florida, a battleground state in USA elections.

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