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US Orders Diplomat Retreat from Cuba

30 September 2017

As a result of the estimated 60% drawdown, the Havana embassy will provide only emergency services to US citizens.

USA officials told CNN that at least 21 us diplomats and family members have become ill after apparent sonic attacks, which have taken place since November.

Announcing the move Friday, American officials linked it to 21 injuries from what they have begun describing as sonic "attacks", with symptoms including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive problems and difficulty sleeping.

On Friday, the US State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to its embassy in Havana, as well as all family members. The American embassy in Havana will stay open, but the United States will immediately stop issuing visas.

"The health, safety, and well-being of our embassy community is our greatest concern", he continued.

And State issued an official travel warning to US tourists thinking of visiting the island.

Another senior U.S. State Department official participating in the conference call said that it doesn't appear that anyone other than the U.S. diplomats were affected, including other hotel patrons and Cuban nationals working at the embassy.

"We don't have any definitive conclusions regarding cause, source, or any kind of technologies that have been engaged or might have been used", a State Department official said.

Cuba, which is keen to maintain newly restored diplomatic relations with the United States, has strenuously denied responsibility, and even invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter.

"We must warn american citizens not to travel to Cuba", said a State Department official on Thursday.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez met with Tillerson on Tuesday and reassured the country was not involved in the attacks.

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CNN is reporting "a string of mysterious attacks against US diplomats".

The meeting between Tillerson and Rodriguez marked the highest-level diplomatic contact between the countries since the start of President Donald Trump's administration in January. The decision comes after about 20 U.S. Diplomats are suffering from health problems believed to be a result of mysterious sonic attacks.

"Attacks have occurred in USA diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by US citizens", the State Department said in the warning.

The United States notified Cuba early Friday via its embassy in Washington.

US authorities first suspected a supersonic device as the cause of the injuries, but investigators have not found any concrete evidence of such. Last month, the U.S. expelled two Cuban diplomats from Cuba's embassy in Washington over the incidents.

Some diplomats reported hearing loud noises or feeling vibrations when the incidents occurred, but others heard and felt nothing yet reported symptoms later.

"We have it under evaluation", Tillerson said.

From the outset, the Cuban government has denied responsibility in the attacks and allowed entry to the Federal Bureau of Investigation island to investigate.

Still, the dramatic moves were a blow to Washington's delicate relations with Havana, which were restored in 2015, more than half a century after they were broken in the Cold War. Cuba's embassy had no immediate comment.

The remaining 40 percent of employees who will remain at the Havana embassy are "emergency personnel".

US Orders Diplomat Retreat from Cuba