Cuba starts investigation into alleged incidents concerning United States diplomats

US embassy Cuba

US government personnel in Havana report "incidents" causing physical symptoms

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Wednesday that officials first learned about the "incidents" at the U.S. embassy in Cuba in late 2016.

Officials said beginning last fall, American diplomats in Havana suffered from severe hearing loss, which they believe could be attributed to a covert sonic device.

The diplomatic kerfuffle comes at a time of heightened uncertainty over the relationship between the USA and Cuba. The Obama administration also approved a package of regulatory changes that was meant to expand scientific, humanitarian, trade and commercial opportunities between the USA and Cuba.

After months of investigation, USA officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.

USA diplomats in Cuba said they suffered occasional harassment for years after the restoration of limited ties with the communist government in the 1970s, harassment reciprocated by US agents against Cuban diplomats in Washington.

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A vintage vehicle drives past the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. She also added that the government was taking the issue "very seriously, and an investigation is now under way".

"The safety and security of American citizens at home and overseas is our top priority", Nauert said while she emphasized the Cuban government is obligated under the Geneva Convention to protect US diplomats.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday said that "some USA government personnel" working at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba on official duty reported some incidents that were causing "physical symptoms". Some of the diplomats had such severe hearing loss they had to return nearly immediately to the U.S. "And as a result of that, we've asked two Cubans to leave the United States, and they have". A spokesperson for the Canadian government said that authorities, "are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and United States diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana".

Given Trump's aggresive posture against the Cuban regime - and thorn of his comments about Castro's crimes - the fact that a more aggessive response from the what amounts to an attack of USA diplomats in Cuba does not add up.

Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy.

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"We don't have any definitive information about the source or the cause", she said.

Global Affairs Canada, the coutnry's foreign ministry, says the government is working with the USA and Cuban governments to find out what happened.

Speaking at a State Department press briefing, Nauert did not provide details about the "incidents" or the symptoms the Americans suffered, saying only that they were medical in nature and that diagnosing them "took time".

Speaking to CNN, a U.S. official added: "We felt like we needed to respond to the Cubans and remind them of their responsibility under the Vienna convention". All of facets of the Cuban embargo that had been loosened by Barack Obama, including a ban on tourism, would continue to be enforced, he said.

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