The State Department has issued a new travel warning for Cuba, citing attacks on employees at the U.S. embassy in Havana. Officials are also ordering all nonessential embassy staff members out of the country.
“Over the past several months, numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks,” the State Department wrote in a statement on its website. “These employees have suffered significant injuries as a consequence of these attacks. Affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms including ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.”
“Because our personnel's safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba,” the State Department said, noting that attacks have occurred both in U.S. diplomatic residences, as well as hotels frequented by U.S. citizens.
On September 29, the Department ordered the departure of nonemergency U.S. government employees and their family members to protect their safety. Due to the drawdown in staff, the State Department warns that the embassy will have limited ability to assist U.S. citizens, providing emergency assistance only. U.S. citizens in Cuba in need of emergency assistance should contact the embassy by telephone at +(53)(7) 839-4100 or the Department of State at 1-202-501-4444. U.S. citizens should not attempt to go to the U.S. embassy as it suffered severe flood damage during Hurricane Irma, the State Department said.
CNN is reporting “a string of mysterious attacks against U.S. diplomats.” According to that report, several U.S. officials told CNN that 21 U.S. diplomats and family members became ill after apparent sonic attacks. The American embassy will continue to operate with a 60 percent reduction in staff, according to the report.
At least 21 staff members and two Canadians reported health problems ranging from mild brain trauma and deafness to dizziness and nausea, according to the BBC. Cuba denies involvement in any sonic attack, according to the BBC.
According to the New York Times, “despite an intensive investigation by the F.B.I., the cause and perpetrators of the attacks remain a mystery, with some experts speculating that some kind of sonic weapon or faulty surveillance device may have been at fault.”
According to the New York Times report, American officials will continue to meet with their Cuban counterparts, but not in Cuba, until the cause of the attacks is uncovered, officials said. The most recent attack occurred in August, according to that report.