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Investigators looking at various kinds of attacks on USA diplomats in Havana

Investigators looking at various kinds of attacks on USA diplomats in Havana”

The great mystery behind what hurt two dozen USA diplomatic personnel in Cuba remains unsolved, according to a Senate hearing on Tuesday. The United States would be "putting people intentionally in harm's way" if it sent diplomats back to Cuba, Tillerson said, even as a new Federal Bureau of Investigation report casts doubt on the initial theory that Americans were hit by "sonic attacks". He said one possibility was that a virus was deliberately deployed to harm Americans, but he offered no evidence for why investigators believed that might be the case.

The report has not been released publicly.

Sen. Flake, R-Ariz., disputed calling it an "attack".

"They associated the onset of these symptoms to their exposures with unusual sounds or auditory sensations". They have seen no evidence it was "an episode of mass hysteria" among the 24 affected USA personnel and family members, a senior State Department medical officer told a Senate hearing.

As news of those symptoms emerged a year ago, hypotheses swirled. The diplomats said when they left rooms in the embassy, the symptoms and sounds immediately stopped, indicating some type of sonic weapon may have been used.

The incident led to the sharpest rise in tensions between the US and Cuba since President Obama restored diplomatic relations with the island in late 2014. Canada is the only other country known to have complained that its diplomats were also affected.

"Cuba is a security state".

Johana Tablada, deputy director for North America at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a message on Twitter it was "regrettable to see officials of the State Department using the word attacks with ZERO evidence to prove it happened".

Sen. Cory Gardner R-Colo. left and Sen. Jeff Flake R-Ariz. confer as the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere examines attacks on American diplomats in Havana on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday Jan. 9 2018. (AP

A total of 24 Americans, including at least one relative of embassy personnel, reported the health problems.

The United States is investigating a range of possibilities beyond "sonic attacks" for the cause of US diplomats' mysterious illnesses in Cuba, the Trump administration told Congress on Tuesday, including the possibility of a viral attack.

He said investigators and doctors could not find a single cause or explanation for the broad range of medical symptoms, although he ruled out what he called "mass hysteria".

Todd Brown, the assistant director for the Diplomatic Security Service at the State Department, told a Senate panel that among the other causes being looked at are the possibilities of "viral" or "ultrasound" attacks.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will open a new high-level investigation into the matter, convening an accountability review board, Palmieri said.

"I don't think we can say categorically that we can guarantee that they would be safe from this (if staffers return)", Brown told the hearing, chaired by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American and strong critic of Cuba.

The State Department withdrew most personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Havana last fall and expelled 17 Cuban diplomats from Washington.

"That would not be ruled out", Brown said, "it could be a possibility". The State Department officials said they could not address or speculate on such matters in a public hearing.



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