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State Dept: No answers in sonic attacks in Cuba, China

State Dept: No answers in sonic attacks in Cuba, China
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U.S. authorities still don't know who or what caused a series of mysterious ailments that affected Americans in China and Cuba, the State Department's top Western Hemisphere official said Wednesday.

Kenneth Merten, the acting principal deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, told lawmakers that U.S. investigators continue to examine the source of health problems for 26 Americans.

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"We don’t know who is responsible and we don’t know what is responsible for this," Merten said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

He added that the investigation is "still very much evolving."

Reports of the symptoms, which range from loss of hearing to vertigo, first emerged in fall 2016 but were not publicly disclosed until months later. Since then, new cases have surfaced.

The health incidents prompted the U.S. last year to recall roughly 60 percent of its embassy staff from Havana and order 15 Cuban diplomats to leave Cuban Embassy in Washington.

The Cuban government, which is conducting its own investigation into the matter, has vehemently denied any role in the incidents and has accused the U.S. of playing politics with the cases.

At least one person at the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China, has reported experiencing symptoms similar to those caused by the incidents in Cuba, prompting the U.S. to evacuate some personnel from the facility.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNikki Haley says if Trump runs for president in 2024 then she won't Blinken: China 'didn't do what it needed to do' in early stages of pandemic Biden loves the Georgia boycott — So why won't he boycott the Beijing Olympic games? MORE announced last month that he had formed a task force to address the mysterious health incidents. The issue was also raised Tuesday during a law enforcement dialogue between U.S. and Cuban officials, the State Department and Cuban foreign ministry said.

"We remain very concerned about this, and I think we're looking for any tools we can find to get to the bottom of what's causing this," Merten told lawmakers Wednesday.

Reps. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceCalifornia was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Top donor allegedly sold access to key politicians for millions in foreign cash: report Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (R-Calif.) and Eliot EngelEliot Lance Engel Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Progressives target Manchin, Sinema with new PAC State Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies MORE (D-N.Y.) — the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman and ranking member, respectively — said they planned to meet with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan on Wednesday afternoon and would discuss the health incidents with him.

--Jesus Rodriguez contributed to this report.