The U.S. ejected two Cuban diplomats from Washington after several U.S. officials in Havana began suffering mysterious injuries that forced at least two to return to the U.S. Now, the FBI is reportedly investigating claims that a purposely deployed sonic device caused the injuries.
The Cuban government, however, called the expulsions “unjustified and unfounded,” signaling trouble for the U.S.’ 2-year-old diplomatic relationship with Cuba.
The situation started some time ago, but it’s only now coming to light. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday that U.S. diplomats began suffering a variety of physical symptoms in late 2016, though she was short on details and didn’t say how many diplomats were injured. An unnamed State Department official told CNN that one of the diplomats could have suffered permanent hearing loss.
The diplomats were exposed to an advanced device, deployed inside or near their residences in Cuba, that emitted sound waves outside the audible range, according to the Associated Press, citing State Department officials. Diplomats living at different addresses suffered similar injuries, suggesting that more than one device may have been involved.
The FBI and the Diplomatic Security Service are now investigating whether one or more devices were deployed, and if so, if they were used as a weapon in a deliberate attack.
After informing the Cuban government about the incidents in February, the State Department expelled two Cuban diplomats in May from their Washington embassy.
“We requested their departure as a reciprocal measure since some U.S. personnel’s assignments in Havana had to be curtailed due to these incidents,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday. “Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats.”
The Cuban government has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement released late Wednesday, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said it complies “strictly and seriously” with the Vienna Convention. “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 continued.