August 24, 2017 / 9:16 PM / a month ago

At least 16 Americans affected by 'incidents' in Cuba - State Department

FILE PHOTO: An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mysterious “incidents” caused physical symptoms in at least 16 Americans linked to the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the State Department said on Thursday, in what media reports have described as an “acoustic attack.”

The State Department earlier this month said Americans serving at the U.S. embassy in Havana had experienced physical symptoms caused by unspecified “incidents” starting as far back as late 2016.

A U.S. government official said in August that several colleagues at the U.S. embassy in Havana were evacuated back to the United States for hearing problems and other symptoms. Some subsequently got hearing aids, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that 16 or more U.S. government employees and family members based in Cuba had experienced symptoms of some sort, a number that was previously not known.

“We can confirm that at least 16 ... members of our embassy community have experienced some kinds of symptoms,” Nauert said.

Those affected received medical care in the United States and Cuba, and some of those who experienced symptoms have decided to remain in Havana, Nauert said.

CBS reported this week that Americans and Canadians working in Cuba had been diagnosed with hearing loss, nausea, headaches and balance disorders and conditions as serious as mild traumatic brain injury and damage to the central nervous system.

Citing a source familiar with the incidents, CBS said officials are investigating whether the diplomats were targets of some form of sonic attack directed at their homes.

“The incidents are no longer occurring,” Nauert said.

Cuba has denied involvement in the incidents, and said this month that it is investigating the U.S. allegations. The State Department has not blamed Cuba for the attacks, but did ask two Cuban diplomats to leave Washington in May.

Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Sandra Maler

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