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Germany investigates possible ‘sonic weapon attack’ against US embassy staff

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2021-10-08
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The US embassy in Berlin has handed over evidence of the alleged incidents to German police.

German police are investigating an “alleged sonic weapon attack” against staff of the US embassy in Berlin, in the latest in a growing number of incidents of “Havana syndrome” around the world.

The police statement, which said the investigation had been under way since August, was issued on Friday in response to a report in Der Spiegel, which said the inquiry into at least two cases had been opened on the basis of evidence handed over by the US embassy.

About 200 cases of Havana syndrome – so named because the first cases were reported in the Cuban capital in 2016 – have now been reported around the world, with incidents in China, India and even Washington DC. The victims have been mostly US diplomats and intelligence officers, though Canada also reported cases in its Havana embassy.

Austrian authorities have also said they are working with the US to investigate another cluster of cases among American embassy staff in Vienna.

The syndrome describes a range of symptoms, including dizziness and nausea in the short term; migraines and memory loss in the longer term.

The CIA, state department and the Pentagon are carrying out investigations. About 100 of the cases have affected CIA officers and the agency’s director, William Burns, said in July that ​​there was a “very strong possibility” that the symptoms had been caused deliberately, and pointed to Russia as a possible culprit. Moscow has denied responsibility.

When Burns traveled to India in September, a member of his team was struck with symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome and had to receive medical attention. Burns was “fuming” over the incident, CNN reported at the time.

Joe Biden signed a law on Friday that guaranteed better healthcare and support for victims of the syndrome, which he referred to as “anomalous health incidents”, stopping short of calling them attacks.

Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, who receives classified briefings on the investigation, said the cause was still unknown.

“It’s possible that not all of these incidents, not all of these anomalies, are attributable to the same cause,” Schiff told reporters last month.

“What the cause is and what the motivation is, what the intent is, I think these are still very much open questions. There are certainly many of them that seem quite deliberate. But I do think that we are getting closer to some of the answers and bringing new tools to bear to help us get those answers. So we’ll figure this out.”

If a foreign government was found to be involved, he said, “I’m also confident there’ll be very serious repercussions.”

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