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Havana Syndrome Hits At Least Five At Embassy In Colombia

Bogotá embassy is host to anti-narcotics operatives, spies, diplomats, aid workers Bogotá has one of the largest American embassies in the ...

Bogotá embassy is host to anti-narcotics operatives, spies, diplomats, aid workers Bogotá has one of the largest American embassies in the world/ Guillermo Legaria.
At least five American families connected to the acoustic attack at U.S. Embassy in Colombia have been afflicted with the mysterious neurological ailment known as Havana Syndrome, in the latest attack against American diplomatic installations, people familiar with the matter said.

In emails to embassy personnel, sent by Ambassador Philip Goldberg and others and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the State Department vowed to address the issue “seriously, with objectivity and with sensitivity,” as they work to determine the scope of the afflictions in one of the U.S.’s most important diplomatic outposts.

The sprawling embassy, one of the largest the U.S. operates in the world, is a target-rich installation of intelligence agents and anti-narcotics operatives, in addition to the usual complement of aid and development workers and diplomats. The developments come days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit.

Embassy staff were initially alerted to “an unexplained health incident” via email in mid-September. A later email, dated Oct. 1, informed embassy personnel that the regional security office was investigating “additional Anomalous Health Incidents,” the U.S. government’s term for the illness. The October email added that “there is no stigma to reporting any health-related incident in which the underlying causes are not known.”

Word that people in the embassy had been targeted has deeply concerned workers in the American compound, which is on a major thoroughfare not far from Bogotá’s airport. Two cases had initially been reported when embassy officials were first made aware of potential incidents, but several more people are now believed to have been affected, several officials said. One U.S. official said that at least one family was flown out of the country for treatment, and concerns have grown more serious in recent days.

“There was definitely a family, including a minor hit,” said a person with knowledge of the situation in the embassy. “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.”

A former high-ranking U.S. diplomat who is familiar with the syndrome said that as in other cases around the world, some of those Americans who have complained about the ailments in Colombia work in intelligence. “Globally, this has been weighted toward the intelligence community,” said the former diplomat.

Asked how family members could also be suffering, he said, “These are technologies that are directed toward a place where people live. If it’s a microwave or some other kind of advanced technology, it would affect other people.” Mr. Blinken’s expected trip to Bogotá next week would be part of a quick Latin America tour, several officials said. The U.S. Embassy in Bogotá declined to comment.

State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on reports of Havana Syndrome cases in Bogotá, citing privacy. He said that the State Department is working to ensure that all individuals receive the “prompt care they need” when they believe they are experiencing symptoms, as well as taking broader steps, in terms of communication, care, detection and protection of its workforce.

If verified, the attacks would be the latest that coincide with overseas travel by senior U.S. officials. In August, Vice President Kamala Harris delayed her arrival in Vietnam after reports of an incident targeting a U.S. official there. Last month, an aide traveling in India with Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns reported symptoms and received medical attention, a U.S. official said.

The unexplained health incidents are known as Havana Syndrome because they first surfaced among U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers in Cuba in late 2016. The symptoms include dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, ringing in the head and memory loss. “People experience different things. Some hear grinding sounds. Some hear vibrations in their head,” said the former high-ranking U.S. diplomat. “The whole situation is very bizarre.”

Since then, attacks have also been reported in China, Austria, Germany and Serbia, where the CIA recently evacuated an intelligence officer who suffered serious injuries consistent with Havana Syndrome. While about 200 U.S. government employees have been affected, officials caution that a precise count is difficult to determine because each case must be medically verified and some individuals’ symptoms end up having other explanations.

Five years after the first symptoms emerged, the U.S. government has yet to determine who is behind the attacks and what mechanism or mechanisms are being used. Some of the afflicted families initially thought they had altitude sickness, since Bogotá is located more than 8,600 feet above sea level, a diplomat in Bogotá familiar with the matter said. Now, some of the families are living in hotels as the embassy runs tests on their apartments.