A US flag flies at the embassy in Cuba, where cases of Havana syndrome were first reported.(AP)
A US flag flies at the embassy in Cuba, where cases of Havana syndrome were first reported.(AP)

US officials confirm 130 cases of ‘Havana syndrome’, mysterious brain injury, as CIA probes cause

  • These health incidents first came to light in late 2016 when US embassy staff in Havana, Cuba, began to report an unusual set of symptoms, with some of the cases beginning with the sudden onset of loud noise.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 14, 2021 05:45 PM IST

More than 130 US officials have been impacted by the “mysterious” episodes that precipitated unexplained brain injury known as ‘Havana syndrome’, according to a New York Times report. The officials afflicted by Havana syndrome include US diplomats, spies and defence officials who were on overseas assignments.

According to the US daily, three officers from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had reported serious symptoms since December 2020, requiring treatment at the Walter Reed military hospital in Washington. These health incidents first came to light in late 2016 when US embassy staff in Havana, Cuba, began to report an unusual set of symptoms, with some of the cases beginning with the sudden onset of loud noise.

A year later, a US diplomat in the Chinese city of Guangzhou started experiencing unexplained symptoms, including headache and memory problems. The US State Department had requested the National Academy of Sciences to assess the cause and the latter came up with a report that suggested the mysterious head injuries were consistent with the use of directed microwave energy.

“The committee felt that these acute symptoms were more consistent with a directed radio frequency (RF) energy attack, and explored possible related mechanisms,” the report said.

The number of cases reported in the NYT is around 70 more than previously acknowledged. Quoting sources in the Pentagon, the report hinted at the possible involvement of Russian military intelligence agency GRU behind some of these episodes.

Also Read | Mysterious injuries suffered by US diplomats in China, Cuba likely caused by microwave energy: Study

The US lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee recently said that the cases appear to be increasing and the committee was investigating the suspected “directed" radio frequency attacks. The CIA has created a cell to collect more information on these suspected attacks.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner and Republican Marco Rubio, who led the committee, issued a statement late last month, saying the pattern of attacking "our fellow citizens serving our government appears to be increasing". The two senators noted that it was “important "to better understand the technology behind the weapon responsible for these attacks”, welcoming the renewed probe by the CIA.

"Ultimately we will identify those responsible for these attacks on American personnel and will hold them accountable," they said.

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