The mystery of the USA diplomats in Cuba who suddenly went deaf

A guard stands at the entrance of the newly opened Cuban embassy in Washington D.C. in 2015

Washington has expelled two Cuban diplomats after U.S. embassy staff in Havana suffered mysterious physical symptoms, the USA state department said.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert linked "incidents which have caused a variety of physical symptoms" to the decision to expel two Cubans, but she did not directly blame the Cuban government for harming the Americans.

"Various entities conducted an exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation ordered by the highest authorities of the Cuban government and requested the USA embassy to share information on these incidents, " said the statement.

Nauert confirmed complaints of "physical symptoms" started in 2016. "The government is actively working - including with USA and Cuban authorities - to ascertain the cause".

A small number of Americans began reporting symptoms at the end of 2016, and a few were either removed for medical treatment in the U.S. or asked to leave, State Department officials were quoted as saying by the Washington Post on Wednesday.

Officials, speaking under condition of anonymity, said an investigation revealed that the diplomats had been affected by a device emitting noises outside the range of audible sound.

It's in response to a series of incidents that left American diplomats in Cuba with physical symptoms. The embassy reopened in 2015 when Barack Obama began to establish new diplomatic ties with Cuba, and many of these employees were new to the job. The incidents resulted in two Cuban officials operating at the Cuban embassy in the United States being asked to leave the country on May 23.

Cuban officials have pledged to investigate the incidents as well and take appropriate action, reported the AP.

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"Because there are a variety of symptoms, there could be a variety of sources", she said.

In a statement, the Cuban foreign affairs ministry said it launched an investigation after it was informed of the situation by U.S. officials in February.

However, officials familiar with the probe said investigators were looking into the possibilities that the incidents were carried out by a third country such as Russian Federation, possibly operating without the knowledge of Cuba's formal chain of command.

A communiqué, published by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, says the authorities were informed and they have launched an "exhaustive, high-priority, urgent inquiry", increasing the security measures for all US Embassy employees and US diplomatic presidents. "And we take this extremely seriously".

Cuba's ministry of foreign affairs issued a statement saying it "has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families".

The objection to removing the Cuban agents suggests that American officials did not merely want to reduce the number of staff in the embassy to balance the numbers following the departure of American officials from Havana.

"Personal harm to U.S. officials shows the extent the Castro regime will go and clearly violates global norms".

The incident threatens to set back relations between the two countries, which President Barack Obama took major strides to fix in 2015.

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