U.S. Embassy personnel in Bogota, Colombia, have reported symptoms aligned with the mysterious “Havana syndrome” that continues to plague U.S. spies and diplomats around the globe.
U.S. officials said Tuesday that two cases were initially reported by embassy personnel in the capital city, but said several others may have been affected. Embassy staff was alerted to the “anomalous health incidents” involving at least five families connected to the embassy in a mid-September email, according to The Wall Street Journal, who first reported the latest known cases in a baffling string of attacks that have mystified U.S. officials.
The State Department and Colombian intelligence are investigating the reports even as Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to visit the South American country next week.
The State Department declined to comment on the reports by embassy personnel citing privacy concerns when contacted by The Washington Times, but said the department takes “each report extremely seriously and are working to ensure that affected employees get the care they need.”
“As part of the National Security Council-led interagency response effort and in coordination with our partners across the U.S. government, we are vigorously investigating reports of [anomalous health incidents] wherever they are reported,” a State Department spokesperson added. “The interagency is actively working to identify the cause of these incidents and whether they may be attributed to a foreign actor, and is focused on providing care for those affected.”
The Colombian episode follows confirmation last week that German police are investigating an “alleged sonic weapon attack” on employees stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, according to Reuters. The police issued their statement Friday in response to a report by Der Spiegel.
The reported incidents are part of a wave of suspected attacks in recent months.
Early reports of the syndrome began surfacing in 2016 by U.S. officials stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba. Several officials there began experiencing debilitating symptoms, including vertigo and headaches that can last years in some cases.
Since the initial diagnoses in 2016, the number of U.S. officials around the globe reporting symptoms, including on U.S. soil, has continued to swell. In May, reports revealed information about two U.S. officials struck by Havana syndrome near the White House.
In August, a “possible anomalous health incident” — which some believed to be a Havana syndrome case — was reported by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and briefly delayed Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Vietnam.
Earlier this month, a CIA officer reported symptoms while traveling in India, at the same time CIA Director Bill Burns was in the country.
Some estimate that more than 200 officials have been targeted in the attacks, which have affected officials from the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA.
Many have suspected “Havana syndrome” cases to be caused by microwave or directed-energy attacks. A December National Academy of Sciences report concluded that the symptoms “are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radiofrequency (RF) energy,” but the U.S. government has yet to identify the specific cause.
Last week, President Biden signed a bill approved by Congress in September to provide financial and medical assistance to victims.
“Addressing these incidents has been a top priority for my administration,” Mr. Biden said. “We are bringing to bear the full resources of the U.S. government to make available first-class medical care to those affected and to get to the bottom of these incidents, including to determine the cause and who is responsible.”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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