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What is a sonic attack?

U.S. diplomats in Cuba are reporting mysterious symptoms, including hearing loss. A sophisticated sonic weapon may be responsible.
What is a sonic attack
The alleged sonic attacks happened at the US Embassy in Cuba. Photo: Getty Images

Over the past few months, mysterious reports have come out of Cuba about U.S. diplomats suffering injuries such as hearing loss because of a "sonic attack." CNN reported that U.S. and Canadian diplomats and their families have been subject to a "mystery sonic weapon" in Havana that caused a range of distressing symptoms, and the State Department announced just today that they’re pulling even more U.S. diplomats out of Cuba due to the attacks.

What is a sonic attack?

U.S. officials believe that, in some of the attacks, a sophisticated sonic weapon was deployed inside or outside the homes of U.S. diplomats living in Havana, Cuba. This weapon operates outside of the range of audible sound and caused immediate physical effects such as nausea, headaches and hearing loss.

Other attacks were more overt and "made a deafeningly loud sound similar to the buzzing created by insects or metal scraping across a floor, but the source of the sound could not be identified," reported CNN.

Who is responsible for the sonic attacks, and why are they happening?

That's unknown.

The U.S. and Cuba have been secretly discussing the attacks for months. In May, the U.S. expelled two Cuban diplomats from the United States but the reason was not disclosed.

Cuba has denied any involvement in the attacks, and took the unusual step of allowing the FBI and the Canadian Police to investigate. The investigators searched the diplomats' homes and found no suspicious devices.

CNN reports that the sophistication of the attacks has led investigators to believe that a third country is involved which seeks revenge on the United States and Canada or wants to drive a wedge between them and Cuba.

What is the U.S. doing about sonic attacks?

Investigators are looking into whether spies from Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela or Iran are involved but have not narrowed their focus to one suspect.

Cuba is not out of the woods either.

"We hold the Cuban authorities responsible for finding out who is carrying out these health attacks on not just our diplomats but, as you've seen now, there are other cases with other diplomats involved," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in August.

"Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families, without exception," the Cuban government said.

 
 
 
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