U.S. officials said Wednesday they believe a string of bizarre attacks on a group of American diplomats in Havana was carried out with a covert sonic weapon that left the victims with severe hearing loss.
In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Some of the diplomats’ symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said.
After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.
It was not clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.
The U.S. officials weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the U.S. retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington on May 23. She did not say how many U.S. diplomats were affected or confirm they had suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had “a variety of physical symptoms.”
Cuba denies involvement
The Cuban government said in a lengthy statement late Wednesday that “Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception.”
The statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry said it had been informed of the incidents on Feb. 17 and had launched an “exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government.”
It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was “unjustified and baseless.”
The ministry said it had created an expert committee to analyze the incidents and had reinforced security around the U.S. Embassy and U.S. diplomatic residences.
“Cuba is universally considered a safe destination for visitors and foreign diplomats, including U.S. citizens,” the statement said.
The U.S. retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington on May 23, Nauert said.
U.S. officials told The Associated Press…