US tells tourists to avoid Cuba following ‘sonic attacks’
THE US warned Americans not to visit Cuba yesterday as it dramatically stepped up its response to a mysterious alleged sonic attack on its diplomats there.
Washington ordered more than half of US personnel on the island to leave following what it is now describing as ‘specific attacks’ on diplomats.
At least 21 US diplomats based in Havana, as well as others from Canada, have reported symptoms ranging from nausea and nose bleeds to concussion, memory loss and permanent damaged hearing.
Many say the symptoms occurred after they heard unpleasant ringing, screeching or scraping noises that appeared to have been targeted specifically at them.
Almost a year after diplomats began describing the unexplained health problems, US investigators remain flummoxed. Although the US State Department previously called them ‘incidents’, officials said it was now convinced they were targeted attacks on American diplomats.
In a new travel warning yesterday, US officials warned American tourists that some of the attacks had occurred in a hotel popular with foreign visitors, so they may be vulnerable.
The US embassy in Havana will lose roughly 60% of its staff and will stop processing travel visas indefinitely.
The move deals a major blow to the historic resumption of diplomatic relations between the two former Cold War foes under the Obama administration.
The Cuban government, now run by Fidel Castro’s brother, Raoul, has denied all responsibility for the injuries.
The controversy has puzzled scientists and security analysts. While it is possible to create high frequency ultrasound waves that can cause hearing loss and some of the other reported symptoms, it is very difficult to target the attack precisely. Most incidents happened in diplomats’ homes but two were staying at the Hotel Capri in Havana when targeted.
The US has already expelled two Cuban diplomats over the issue but officials said it was considering demands by some senators that it throws out all of them.
Washington has not yet specifically blamed the Cuban regime.