(WASHINGTON) — U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday that more than 10 officials had been affected by “incidents” appearing to target U.S. staff and government officials in Cuba.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the situation “unprecedented” in a briefing today.
“We have not seen this type of activity take place before,” Nauert said. “Those incidents have caused a variety of physical symptoms … We are working and have been working to provide our staff
and U.S. government employees with the best medical attention that we can provide to them.”
Officials said the U.S. could not say for sure who or what may be behind the incidents.
“We have had numerous conversations with the Cuban government,” one senior U.S. State Dept official said. “I’m told they’ve been responsive to us, but we can’t rule out who it might be.”
The Cuban government has denied any involvement in the incidents.
Nauert said the “first reported activity” had taken place in late December 2016.
“It took some time for people to be able to determine that, ‘Yes, there is a pattern taking place here. Yes, there is something going on,'” she said.
Sources told ABC News that some U.S. officials were exposed to a sonic device in Havana that caused serious health problems and physical symptoms.
Experts tell ABC News that sound waves above and below the range of human hearing could potentially cause permanent damage.
According to ABC affiliate WPLG in Miami, sources said the variety of symptoms suffered by those affected included headaches, vision issues, balance and walking issues and memory loss.
Nauert said officials had not all experienced the same symptoms and while some had been asked by the department to leave Cuba because “their condition necessitated that,” others had chosen to stay.
“We have had our US government employees go to Miami … Some of them had been medically evacuated in order to receive medical treatment and testing,” she said. “We have brought medical
professionals to our staff in Cuba to be able to treat them, to be able to test them.”
The University of Miami told ABC News today that it had been contacted by the State Department and that it was looking into the situation.
“Like any top-notch academic medical center in the nation, the University of Miami is often consulted regarding complex health care issues or emerging diseases. In the case of U.S. diplomats, our
physicians were consulted by the State Department,” the university said in a statement.
U.S. officials told ABC News that the FBI is among those investigating on the ground in Havana, with the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security taking the lead.
In May 2017, the State Department asked two Cuban officials working at the embassy in the United States to depart the country.
However, U.S. officials told ABC News today that Cuban authorities are working with the U.S. in the probe and that U.S.-Cuban relations continued.
Earlier in August, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “We hold the Cuban authorities responsible for finding out who is carrying out these health attacks on not just our diplomats, but as
you’ve seen now there are other cases with other diplomats as well.”
“What has happened there is of great concern to the US government,” Nauert said. “Let me just reassure you that this is a matter that we take very seriously. … It is a huge priority for us and
we’re trying to get them all the care that they need.”
She said the investigation is still ongoing across multiple agencies in the United States.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.