Blinken vows to solve 'Havana syndrome' mystery

·2-min read
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks on the Havana Syndrome, which US officials refer to as “anomalous health incidents.” (AFP/ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday pledged to "get to the bottom" of so-called "Havana syndrome," which some allege could be caused by Russian microwave attacks.

Seeking to assure concerned US diplomats that the government was taking the puzzling affliction seriously, Blinken named two senior figures to lead the State Department's response.

Officially called anomalous health incidents (AHI), cases of Havana syndrome first surfaced in 2016 in the Cuban capital, with US and Canadian diplomats complaining of severe headaches, nausea and possible brain damage after hearing high-pitched sounds.

Since then the number of US officials in the diplomatic and intelligence corps reporting similar experiences in countries including China, Austria, Colombia and Russia, has risen to the low hundreds, according to reports.

"All of us in the US government, and especially we at the State Department, are intently focused on getting to the bottom of what and who is causing these incidents, caring for those who've been affected, and protecting our people," Blinken said.

He said that the State Department had arranged for treatment of those affected at Johns Hopkins University, and was collecting baseline data from US diplomats before they deploy to use in analyzing reported cases.

Blinken appointed veterans envoys Jonathan Moore to coordinate the overall response and Margaret Uyehara to ensure that anyone reporting symptoms got full medical care.

He also said the department is deploying new technology at embassies and missions to help evaluate and protect staff from threats that could be linked to cases.

"We're drawing on the full capacity of our intelligence community. We're enlisting the best scientific minds inside and outside of government" to understand the problem, he said.

But some scientists express doubts about the Russian attacks theory and say there is not one affliction or cause of the reported cases.

And some have even dismissed the spread of cases as a mass psychogenic phenomenon in which people begin to feel sick after they learn of a health threat.

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