January 23, 2019

US evacuates China staffers as illness mystery deepens

07 June 2018, 09:24 | Devin Moran

Mysterious ‘sonic attacks’ prompt evacuation of 2 more US staff from China – report

Sonic attack warning issued as US citizens fall ill in China | Daily Star

Last October, the State Department ordered non-essential embassy personnel and the families of all staff to leave Havana, arguing the USA could not protect them from unexplained illnesses that have harmed at least 24 Americans.

For months, USA officials have been anxious that their diplomats have been subjected to targeted attacks involving odd sounds, leading to symptoms similar to those "following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury", the State Department says.

"As a result of the screening process so far, the department has sent a number of individuals for further evaluation and a comprehensive assessment of their symptoms and findings in the United States", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert was quoted as saying by Reuters.

In May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the symptoms experienced by the American worker evacuated from China in April were the same as those exhibited by diplomats in Cuba during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The evacuated Americans have been transferred to the same facility at the University of Pennsylvania where the government workers in Cuba were sent, an unnamed USA official told The Associated Press.

These follow an earlier evacuation of a US government employee in April who reported experiencing "subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure", according to the State Department.

A paramilitary police officer guards the entrance to the US embassy in Beijing on April 5.

"The safety and security of USA personnel and their families is our top priority", Nauert said.

According to The New York Times, American officials are now raising suspicions as to whether other countries, such as China or Russian Federation, may be behind the mysterious ailments. An American medical team has flown in to Southern China to check the diplomats and their families. That follows the initial evacuation of a government employee, who had reported hearing unusual noises in his apartment and exhibiting symptoms of brain injury. He said he started experiencing excruciating, painful headaches a few months later, as did his wife and son.

A State Department official told CNN at the time that it was "currently reviewing the incident in China and determining how best to proceed".

A state department release on Tuesday made no reference to the possibility of a deliberate attack in China. The United States has also not yet revealed how many people are being evacuated.

Beginning in 2016, at least 10 Canadian workers and 24 U.S. Embassy employees working in Havana, Cuba showed mysterious health symptoms related to unexplained sounds.

But despite an investigation by the FBI that has lasted for more than a year, US officials have been unable to determine the cause of the injuries, much less who the perpetrators might be.

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