Closure of USA embassy in Cuba "under review": United States top diplomat

Cuba again denies role in 'health attacks' on US diplomats

In an escalation that appears to be the final measure of USA patience, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S.is considering closing its embassy in Cuba following a number of "health attacks" on American diplomats there.

"We have it under evaluation", Tillerson said of a possible embassy closure. "So, we decided to make this gesture and show the Cuban government and people that they are in our thoughts".

The Cuban government has denied responsibility for the attacks and while the USA government expelled two Cuban diplomats in response, it has not explicitly blamed the Cuban government.

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At least 21 American diplomats and their family members have experienced unusual health symptoms in the past year, including permanent hearing loss, mild traumatic brain injury, loss of balance, severe headaches, brain swelling, and concentration problems.

Closing the embassy would be a serious setback to relations between the United States and Cuba, two Cold War adversaries whose enmity stretched more than half a century before they restored diplomatic relations and upgraded their missions into embassies in 2015.

No details of the injuries have been released, but media reports said the affected Americans suffered a severe hearing loss and at least one victim suffered some "brain damage". Some reported vibrations or loud sounds that were only audible in parts of rooms, while others heard nothing but developed symptoms. The last reported incident was on August 21, according to a United States official briefed on the matter.

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The FBI, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Cuban authorities have launched investigations into the attacks. The government of Cuban President Raul Castro has denied any involvement or responsibility, and insists it is eager to help the US resolve the matter.

Unlike the U.S., Canada has had warm relations with Cuba for decades.

The New York Times reported that American officials suspect that the health ailments of American embassy employees could be because of some kind of sonic attack or a surveillance operation gone wrong. The US hasn't identified either a culprit or a device.

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The disaster has renewed calls for greater scrutiny of so-called " tahfiz " schools , where students learn to memorise the Quran. The incident is being investigated as negligence, the fire chief, Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim, told state news agency Bernama.

In June President Donald Trump announced a partial roll-back of Obama's Cuba policies, but said he would not close the U.S. embassy in Havana.

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