US visitors to Cuba complain of symptoms similar to ‘embassy attacks’
Earlier, Washington urged citizens to stay away from Cuba because of unexplained health ‘attacks’.
The warning urged Americans to stay away from Cuba because of unexplained health “attacks” it says have caused hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue and cognitive issues among at least 22 diplomatic personnel.
The Trump administration on Tuesday expelled 15 Cuban diplomats to protest Cuba’s failure to protect staff at the US embassy in the communist country, just days after Washington recalled more than half the US diplomatic personnel from Havana. Cuba has denied involvement, and Washington has not directly blamed the government in Havana. So far, no probes have yielded any answers about how the alleged attacks were carried out or who was responsible. The warning said the attacks had occurred in “diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens.”
CBS News first reported that some private citizens had complained of symptoms after visiting Cuba. On Friday, the US embassy in Havana identified the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri as the two places where it said embassy personnel had been targeted over the past few months, and said the US government had “imposed limitations on lodging” there.
Receptionists at both hotels said they had not heard of any restrictions. Both said they had Americans registered there and their managers were not immediately available for comment.
US intelligence operatives working undercover were among the embassy personnel affected by the attacks, but it was unclear if they were specifically targeted since the symptoms hit staff across a range of job categories, said US officials.
Theories about the attacks abound, from surveillance technology gone awry to a sophisticated acoustic weapon in the hands of Cuban-American exiles or third-party state actors such as Russia, Iran or North Korea. But no clear explanation has emerged. Syrian rebel fighters are launching a major military operation, backed by Turkish forces from inside Turkey, in a northern Syrian province largely controlled by jihadist militants, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.
The rebels said they were preparing to start the operation in Idlib soon, and residents reported Turkish authorities removing sections of a border wall.
The operation, part of a deal between Turkey, Iran and Russia to reduce warfare between rebels and the government, appears aimed at crushing the Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which has taken over much of Idlib province and northwestern Syria. The three countries have supported opposing sides in Syria’s six-year conflict, with Turkey backing rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, while Russian and Iranian military support helped Assad drive them back.
Erdogan’s comments, however, suggested Russia and Turkey would fight together against Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by the former al Qaeda affiliate in Syria that changed its name last year from the Nusra Front. “There’s a serious operation in Syria’s Idlib today and it will continue,” Erdogan said in a speech to his AK Party, adding that Turkey would not allow a “terror corridor” on its border with Syria. “For now Free Syria Army is carrying out the operation there,” Erdogan said. “Russia will be protecting outside the borders (of the Idlib region) and we will handle inside,” he said.
“Russia is supporting the operation from the air, and our armed forces from inside Turkey’s borders,” he added.
Mustafa Sejari, a senior official in the Liwa al-Mutasem Syrian insurgent group taking part in the operation, said Russian warplanes would not be militarily backing the rebels.
“As for the Russians, they will not have a role in the areas of our control at all. The role of the Russians is limited to areas under regime control,” he said.
Ankara, Moscow and Tehran announced a deal last month to establish and patrol a “de-escalation” zone in the Idlib region, where Erdogan has said Turkey will deploy troops, but Tahrir al-Sham pledged to keep on fighting.