Havana syndrome: Illness rips through US embassy in Colombia ahead of Blinken visit | Science | News
Antony Blinken laughs over claims of Joe Biden being muted
Five families have reportedly fallen ill at the American embassy in Bogota. US and Colombian intelligence agencies are investigating the cases, but suspect it to be the mysterious Havana syndrome. More than 200 US diplomats and spies have experienced the unexplained neurological illness, which is said to trigger nausea, dizziness and memory loss.
Anthony Blinken is set to visit
US President Joe Biden has already vowed to determine the origin of the apparent “attacks” which are said to have started in 2016 at the US embassy in Cuba.
He has set up a task force to investigate several cases across the world.
The State Department is now investigating “whether they may be attributed to a foreign actor”.
Some have claimed the symptoms are a result of “directed” radio frequency attacks from Russia.
Recent cases are said to have been from those working on Russia-related issues such as gas exports, cybersecurity and political interference.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Philip Goldberg, the US ambassador to Colombia, alerted embassy staff and officials in Washington last month to “an unexplained health incident” and further “anomalous health incidents” this month.
A source told the newspaper: “There was definitely a family, including a child, hit.
“Adults sign up for what they sign up for and the risks that come with it. Targeting or even incidentally hitting kids should be a hard red line.”
Dr James Giordano, a Georgetown University professor of neurology who is advising the US government on the issue, previously said: “They are seen as valid reports with verified health indicators.”
Dr Giordano added that the cause could be some form of ultrasonic or acoustic device, a rapidly-pulsed microwave, or a laser-based system.
He added that the intent is unclear but it could be employing an electronic surveillance system with unusual side effects, or “a discrete form of disruptive instrument”.
The expert added: “That’s a nice way of saying this is a weapon.”
Mr Blinkin is not planning to cancel his trip, according to reports.
It will be his first high-level US trip to the country since Mr Biden took office.
The Colombian foreign ministry said that he would be discussing human rights, social and economic opportunities and the war on drugs.
While some experts have suggested that the illness is purely a psychological condition that is brought about from stress, others believe it to be a deliberate attack.
Bill Evanina, a former senior US intelligence official, said; “Was it an offensive weapon in some manner or form targeted to individuals? I believe it was.
“You may ask yourself if the Russian government was increasing and propagating their intelligence operation in Cuba, probably not good for them to have the US in Cuba in mass to identify some of things that have happened there”
Russia has denied any wrongdoing – and there are some that agree.
The mystery illness was explored by authors Robert Baloh and Robert Bartholomew in their March 2020 book, Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria.
According to the book’s description, Havana syndrome “is one of the most extraordinary cases in the history of science”.
The authors concluded at the time Havana syndrome was not an effort to target US diplomats, but rather a psychogenic illness linked to the mating calls of insects.
The report confirms that “many of the affected individuals describe hearing unusual sounds, and that there are a number of recordings of these sounds”.
However, an analysis of these sounds concluded these were most likely mechanical or biological in origin and not electronic.
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