US says 2 more Americans harmed in Cuba diplomatic 'attacks'

US says 2 more Americans harmed in Cuba diplomatic 'attacks'
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The State Department said Friday that two more U.S. government personnel have been added to the tally of confirmed victims of mysterious attacks in Cuba, bringing the current total to 24.

The most recent attacks on U.S. personnel happened in August, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement, warning that the number could continue to rise.

"Based on continued assessments of U.S. Government personnel, we can confirm 24 persons have experienced health effects from the attacks," Nauert said.

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"Our personnel are receiving comprehensive medical evaluations and care," she added. "We can’t rule out additional new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community."

The State Department disclosed in August that some U.S. personnel at the country's embassy in Havana had suffered health symptoms as the result of attacks that began in the fall of 2016.

Since the attacks were made public, the number of confirmed cases has incrementally increased.

At the time of the attacks, the U.S. had roughly 50 people working at the Havana embassy, according to The Associated Press, meaning that nearly half of its staff fell victim to the incidents.

The State Department has acknowledged permanent hearing loss, balancing problems and difficulty sleeping as some symptoms caused by the attacks. The American Foreign Service Association, the union that represents U.S. diplomats, has said that mild traumatic brain injury has been diagnosed, as well.

The Cuban government has denied responsibility for the attacks and is said to be conducting its own investigation into the incidents. 

But the attacks — and the potential for more in the future — have sparked enough concern among U.S. officials that the State Department pulled most of its diplomatic staff from the embassy. Days later, the U.S. moved to expel 15 Cuban diplomats from the country's embassy in Washington.

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonHeather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job Trump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation MORE has said that the diplomatic drawdown in Cuba is not meant as a punitive measure but is intended to protect Americans from future attacks. The State Department has also issued a travel warning advising Americans against going to Cuba.

U.S. investigators are still trying to determine who — and what — is responsible for the attacks. Some of the diplomats affected reported hearing strange sounds during the attack, leading to suspicions that a covert sonic device may have been used, though investigators have not found such a device. 

The U.S. government has not laid blame for the attacks on any actor or country, though officials, including President Trump, have said that the Cuban government should have done more to protect diplomats and has failed to live up to its responsibilities to do so under the Vienna Convention.

"I do believe Cuba's responsible, I do believe that," Trump said at the White House on Monday. "And it's a very unusual attack, as you know. But I do believe Cuba is responsible."