World Bulletin / News Desk
The U.S. on Friday made dramatic cuts to its diplomatic presence in Cuba and warned Americans to avoid travelling there after a series of mysterious "attacks" affected its diplomats.
The recently re-opened U.S. embassy in Cuba will have its staffing reduced to emergency personnel only, and visa operations have been suspended indefinitely as a result of the action.
"The decision to reduce our diplomatic presence in Havana was made to ensure the safety of our personnel," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.
"We maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and our work in Cuba continues to be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."
Twenty-one U.S. diplomats have suffered various physical ailments following what U.S. officials now describe as attacks, acknowledging the nature remains unknown as well as the perpetrators.
U.S. officials had previously refrained from calling them "attacks", instead using the vague language of "incidents".
Those who have been afflicted have suffered a range of symptoms including hearing loss, ear problems, dizziness, headache, cognitive issues and fatigue.
Havana has pledged to continue investigating and the U.S. will assist in the effort, Tillerson said.
The U.S. has not ruled out a third party could be behind the attacks, according to U.S. officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was in Washington on Tuesday to discuss the case with Tillerson, warning the U.S. to avoid hasty action as tensions soar.
Between five and 10 Canadian diplomats and their families suffered sonic attacks similar to the Americans.
Unlike the Americans, all the affected Canadians recovered, although some required hospital treatment.
At first it was thought the Canadians were accidently affected, with the Americans the prime target. But as the numbers grew, officials said they felt whoever is behind the attacks deliberately targeted Canadians as well.
However, Global Affairs Canada, the department in the Canadian government that manages Canada's diplomatic and consular relations, said there are no plans at this time to remove Canadian diplomatic staff or their families, Canadian media reported.
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