WASHINGTON: The US is withdrawing more than half of its personnel from the embassy in Havana in response to “specific attacks” targeting at least 21 of its staff, a senior State Department official said Friday.
“Until the government of Cuba can assure the safety of US government personnel in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel,” the official said.
Routine visa operations will also be suspended indefinitely in response to the mysterious “health attacks,” which have soured ties between Havana and Washington two years after they fully restored diplomatic relations.
“These employees have suffered significant injuries as a consequence of these attacks,” including “hearing loss, balance problems, visual complaints, headache, fatigue, cognition issues and difficulty in sleeping,” the official said.
US officials had previously told reporters they believed some kind of inaudible sound weapon was used on American staff either inside or outside their residences in Havana.
Washington has not accused Cuba of being behind the incidents, but has repeatedly warned that Havana is responsible for the safety of foreign envoys on its soil.
Relations between the United States and Cuba were restored by then president Barack Obama and his counterpart Raul Castro in 2015, half a century after the Cold War rivals cut ties.
Canadians in Cuba have also been impacted, with a source close to that country’s embassy telling AFP that more than five families were affected, including several children.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that Washington was considering whether to close its embassy over the issue.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said last week that it has found no evidence to support US claims that diplomats were harmed due to attacks.
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