Several U.S. officials at the Embassy in Colombia have reportedly been hit with Havana Syndrome, a mysterious neurological illness that officials believe is the result of attack by a foreign adversary using pulsed microwave energy, which comes just days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit the country.
“One U.S. official said there were at least two known cases, both American citizens, but several more are thought to have been affected,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “This official said that at least one family was flown out of the country for treatment and concerns have grown ‘more serious’ in recent days.”
“There was definitely a family including a minor hit,” a source familiar with the matter told the Journal. “Adults sign up for what they sign up for and the risks that come with it … . Targeting or even incidentally hitting kids should be a hard red line.”
U.S. officials from Republican and Democrat administrations believe that Russia is likely responsible for the attacks, which were first reported in 2016 in Havana, Cuba. Symptoms of Havana Syndrome include intense headaches that hit erupt instantly, loss of balance, and numerous hearing issues. In some cases, the neurological damage lasted years or was permanent and forced those who were attacked to retire.
There have been at least two other major incidents involving travel from top U.S. officials where Havana Syndrome cases were reported on foreign soil.
A member of CIA Director Bill Burns’ team was reportedly attacked during a recent trip to India and there was reportedly another believed case of Havana Syndrome back in August in Hanoi, Vietnam, as Vice President Kamala Harris waited on the runway waiting to depart Air Force Two to meeting with Vietnamese officials. Roughly two dozen U.S. intelligence officials in Vienna reported symptoms of Havana Syndrome a few months ago.
“The incidents have allegedly occurred all over the world, including in Europe, Miami, northern Virginia and near the White House,” Politico reported in May. “The GRU’s [a secret Russian military unit] inclusion as a suspect in the investigation, which has not been previously reported, comes as Biden administration officials are working to reassure outraged lawmakers that they are committed to getting to the bottom of the issue and holding those responsible to account.”
While the sources that spoke to the publication said they do not have smoking gun proof, they pointed to several factors that they say makes the GRU the prime suspect. The GRU has a known presence in all of the areas where U.S. officials have gotten sick, it’s the only Russian agency with the technology capable of the attacks, and Russia has stated in the past that it sought to pursue “irregular warfare” against the U.S. because it cannot compete at the same level as the U.S. on the battlefield.
This report has been update to include additional information.