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US Embassy in Cuba Will Operate With Minimum Personnel Beginning March 5 - DoS

© REUTERS / Enrique De La OsaUS and Cuban flags are seen on the balcony of a restaurant in downtown Havana, Cuba March 19, 2016.
US and Cuban flags are seen on the balcony of a restaurant in downtown Havana, Cuba March 19, 2016. - Sputnik International
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Staff at the US embassy in Cuba will be permanently reduced beginning next week in response to alleged sonic attacks on the mission's employees, the US Department of State said in a press release on Friday.

"The US embassy in Havana has operated under ordered departure status since September 29, 2017, due to health attacks affecting US embassy Havana employees. It will reach the maximum allowable days in departure status on March 4," the release said. "On Monday, March 5, a new permanent staffing plan will take effect."

The State Department explained that the embassy will continue to operate with the minimum personnel necessary to perform core diplomatic and consular functions, similar to the level of emergency staffing maintained during ordered departure.

"The embassy will operate as an unaccompanied post, defined as a post at which no family members are permitted to reside," the release said.

​The State Department noted that the health, safety and well-being of US government personnel and family members are of the greatest concern for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and were "a key factor in the decision to reduce the number of personnel assigned to Havana."

The investigation into the sonic attacks is ongoing, but there are no definitive answers at present as to the attacks' source or cause, the State Department said.

​The statement refers to the November 2016 US announcement, claiming that their diplomatic staff in Havana had begun to experience symptoms and were subsequently treated for hearing loss, dizziness, balance problems and insomnia, all of which occurred after their exposure to alleged acoustic attacks.

Thus, the US State Department declared that at least 24 people working at the US Embassy in Havana were experiencing health effects caused by these purported attacks.

READ MORE: What's Wrong With Reports of 'Acoustic Attack' on US Diplomats in Cuba

Responding to these claims, the Cuban Foreign Ministry has denied any Cuban involvement in the alleged attacks.

READ MORE: Cuba's Raul Castro Denies Using Sound Weapons Against US Diplomats

After this, Cuban Interior Ministry's Lt. Col. Francisco Estrada Portales stated that the Cuban authorities had interviewed people living close to the US embassy and run necessary medical checks.

READ MORE: No Proof of ‘Acoustic Attacks' on US Diplomats in Havana - Ambassador to Russia

As a result of the Cuban probe, the authorities did not find any "acoustic" or other weapons, which could be potentially damaging to the health of the US diplomatic staff, even among those who resided very close to the building of the US diplomatic mission.   

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