United States says two Cuban diplomats expelled after 'incidents' in Havana

United States says two Cuban diplomats expelled after 'incidents' in Havana

Two Cuban diplomats were kicked out of the Washington embassy by the State Department after a number of mysterious incidents forced USA officials in Cuba to return home with "a variety of physical symptoms", State Department officials said Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert linked "incidents which have caused a variety of physical symptoms" to the decision to expel two Cubans, but she did not directly blame the Cuban government for harming the Americans.

'We do not have definitive answers on the source or cause of the incidents'. On Wednesday, officials confirmed that two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States embassy following an "incident" that, well, apparently involved a secret "sonic device" giving diplomats hearing loss?

The FBI and the Diplomatic Security Service are investigating and, speaking on condition of anonymity, a USA government official told CNN that some staff had suffered permanent hearing loss.

The report comes a day after the United States expelled two Cuban diplomats after a number of U.S. embassy staff were forced to leave Havana because of unspecified medical symptoms that were first reported in 2016. "The AP says Cuba may have placed sonic devices that produce non-audible sound inside or outside the residences of several embassy staffers with the intent of deafening them", he reported.

The hearing loss has been blamed on a secret sonic weapon and is just one a series of freaky incidents that have upset USA officials working in Cuba.

Five American diplomats in Cuba and their wives have temporarily lost their hearing late a year ago, United States government sources have revealed for the Associated Press.

The US embassy in Havana only opened in 2015 as part of former President Obama's rapprochement with Cuba.

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Nauert confirmed during Wednesday's briefing that the investigation is ongoing and authorities are still trying to determine what afflicted US Embassy staffers.

"It can be quite serious", a State Department official said.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba said it took the issue seriously and acted in a professional manner in an attempt to clarify facts surrounding the situation by launching an investigation. "Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats".

It is understood that the two expelled Cuban diplomats left Washington DC in May, the BBC's Will Grant reports from Havana.

According to the Associated Press, if the investigation does conclude Cuba is behind the attack on USA diplomats, such a find would be "unprecedented". "We take those incidents very seriously and there is an investigation now underway".

President Trump has criticized the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling it "a completely one-sided deal". Some had to go to the USA for treatment and one is thought to have become permanently deaf.

"Cuba has never, nor would ever, allow the Cuban territory to be used for any kind of action against accredited diplomats or their families", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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