FBI Investigating Whether Cuba Attacked US Diplomats with Covert Sonic Device

US and Cuba have long history of undiplomatic relations

The report in Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper comes after reports in the United States that American diplomats in Cuba suffered hearing loss in the autumn of 2016.

The US State Department confirmed that diplomats had "a variety of physical symptoms" and said the US responded by removing two Cuban diplomats from the country's embassy in Washington last May.

Nauert said the first of the incidents was reported in late 2016 and that they had continued. "Initially, when they'd started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was, and this is still ongoing".

The details around the incidents, which have been taking place in Cuba since autumn of previous year, are hazy.

The specificity of the targets, and the hearing loss associated with the illness, has led both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Diplomatic Security Service to conclude that a powerful acoustic device was the trigger.

Ms Nauert said U.S. personnel began experiencing ailments in late 2016, but that it was not immediately recognised that it could be anything other than an ordinary health issue.

A months-long U.S. investigation found that a group of American diplomats were attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a lack of authorization to discuss the investigations on the record.

Attacking Canadian diplomats would be an inexplicable assault on one of Cuba's most important trading partners and the largest source of tourists to the island. Americans previously served at a diplomatic office that did not carry full embassy status, and Cubans did the same in Washington.

Canada and the USA are actively working together with Cuba to ascertain the cause of the "unusual symptoms", Canadian officials said in the statement.

The officials said the staffers all arrived in Havana in the summer of 2016. "The government is actively working - including with United States and Cuban authorities - to ascertain the cause".

USA officials refused to directly blame Cuba itself for the "incidents", which appear to have begun previous year, and Havana insisted it is working to protect the U.S. mission. They could have suffered permanent hearing loss as a result, one official said.

USA state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says investigations are continuing and stressed that America was not directly blaming Cuba.

Questioned by the press about mysterious "attack sound" that led to the repatriation of Americans working at the U.s. embassy in Havana, the head of the diplomacy, acknowledged that Washington had "not been able to determine who is responsible".

Harassment of American diplomats in Cuba is not uncommon and dates to the restoration of limited ties with the communist government in the 1970s.

But however much American and Cuban diplomats may have complained to each other in the past about harassment or heavy-handed surveillance, sonic attack was never mentioned.

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