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Diplomacy

Russia is main suspect in mysterious brain attacks on US diplomats in China and Cuba, NBC reports

The claim that Moscow is behind the strange illnesses that have stricken US diplomats has been dismissed by the Trump administration, which says investigations are ongoing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 1:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 10:31pm

Russia is the main suspect in US agencies’ investigation of mysterious illnesses in American personnel in Cuba and China, NBC News reported on Tuesday.

Evidence from communications intercepts has pointed to Moscow’s involvement during the investigation involving the FBI, CIA and other agencies, NBC reported, citing three unidentified US officials and two other people briefed on the probe.

The evidence, however, is not conclusive enough for the United States to assign blame publicly to Moscow, according to the NBC report.

Was spy equipment to blame for US diplomats’ mystery illnesses in China and Cuba?

The Trump administration dismissed the reported Russia link and said people should be “sceptical” about the sourcing of the story. FBI and CIA officials did not immediately return a request for comment on the report.

US officials said in July that they are still investigating health problems at the US embassy in Cuba, and do not know who or what was behind the mysterious illnesses, which began in 2016 and have affected 26 Americans.

Symptoms have included hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, headaches and fatigue, a pattern consistent with “mild traumatic brain injury,” State Department officials have said.

The State Department said in June it brought a group of diplomats home from Guangzhou, China, over concern they were suffering from a mysterious malady resembling brain injury.

Cuban officials, who are conducting their own investigation, have denied any involvement or knowledge of what was behind it.

The United States believes sophisticated electromagnetic weapons may have been used on government workers, possibly in conjunction with other technologies, NBC reported.

The US. military has been trying to reverse-engineer the weapon or weapons used to harm the diplomats, including by testing various devices on animals, NBC said, citing Trump administration officials, congressional aides and others.

Part of the work is being done at the directed energy research programme at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, where the military has giant lasers and laboratories to test high-power electromagnetic weapons, including microwaves, NBC said.

“We have seen a firestorm of reports out there today assigning blame to the Russian government,” with those reports attributed to unnamed sources, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday. “I would caution you all to be very sceptical of those statements.”

She said the State Department is still investigating the attacks on US State Department employees in Cuba but has not reached any conclusions yet.

“There is no known cause, no known individual or group believed to be responsible,” she said. “The investigation is ongoing. We have not assigned any blame.”

“We still consider it be a health attack,” she added.

Additional reporting by Associated Press