New details regarding the “acoustic attacks” against US diplomats in Cuba have added to the mystery, as the case has forced the Trump administration to take action against officials on the island.
Researchers have tested various theories of an intentional attack, whether by the Cuban government, a dissident faction of its security forces, a third nation, or a combination of all the above options.
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On Tuesday, September 12, the State Department revealed that doctors have confirmed two new cases, bringing the number of American victims to 21. Some suffer from mild brain trauma, known as a concussion, and others suffered from permanent hearing loss.
The Associated Press (AP) had access to reports that at least some of the incidents, attacks, or symptoms were limited to specific spaces; sometimes inside a single room.
US officials say there was “laser precision,” adding that the facts “contradict physics.”
Initially, the suspicions centered on the Cubans and a sonic weapon. However diagnoses of minor brain damage have caused confusion in the FBI, the State Department and the US intelligence agencies involved in the investigation.
According to several officials, some of the victims now have trouble concentrating or remembering specific words. But the administration of President Donald Trump has yet to identify a culprit or device to explain the attacks.
Officials said the American victims were attacked in at least one hotel, apart from their residences, which had not previously been revealed.
One of the incidents occurred on one of the upper floors of the newly remodeled Hotel Capri, a 60-year-old concrete tower just steps from the iconic Malecón de La Habana.
In several episodes reported by US officials, the victims knew what was happening at the time, and there were strong indications of a sonic attack.
Some felt vibrations, and heard noises such as loud humming, or sounds similar to those of crickets or cicadas. Others heard the sound of a windmill. Some of the victims woke with a ringing in their ears and hurried to turn off alarm clocks, only to realize that the noise disappeared once they moved away from the bed.
The attacks seemed to happen at night. Several victims reported that they ran for up to one minute. However, others did not hear or feel anything, but they did show symptoms.
Canadian diplomats say they also suffered from the same attack. Researchers have had difficulty explaining why Canadians were also harmed, including some who reported nosebleeds.
Fewer than ten Canadian diplomatic residences in Cuba were affected, according to a Canadian official.
Experts say it is possible to emit sonic beams towards a specific target and location, but the laws of acoustics suggest that such a device could be too large and difficult to hide.
Authorities point out that it is not clear whether the effects of the device were concentrated in one place per design or because of some other technical factor.
FBI investigators searched rooms for devices, but found nothing according to several officials with knowledge of the research.
In May, Washington expelled two Cuban diplomats in protest of the communist government’s lack of protection for the Americans working on the island. But the United States has tried to abstain from accusing Havana of perpetrating the attacks.
Investigators believe it is a sign that even if Cuba’s security forces are involved, orders did not necessarily come from the top.