US orders withdrawal of personnel from Cuban embassy after 'specific attacks'

iStock/Thinkstock(HAVANA) — The U.S. has ordered the departure of all nonessential personnel and all family members from the American embassy in Cuba, which will reduce the U.S. diplomatic presence by more than half.

The State Department said embassy employees have been “targeted in specific attacks” and that the withdrawal aims to reduce the number of U.S. personnel at risk of exposure.

American officials are also warning Americans about traveling to Cuba, saying, “We cannot rule out, given the nature of these attacks, that the American public traveling in Cuba might not also be at risk as well.”

The U.S. will also halt all official delegations to Cuba and limit short-term travel to only what is crucial. The embassy will continue to carry out core functions, but routine visa issuances will be suspended indefinitely.

An investigation into the attacks is ongoing, and officials said they have not ruled out the possibility that a third party or Cuba is responsible, and also won’t rule out any possible source, cause or technology used in the attacks.

In May, the U.S. expelled two Cuban diplomats over Havana’s failure to protect American diplomats in the country.

The State Department, which has said 21 U.S. personnel have been affected by the “specific attacks” — most recently in August — for the first time is detailing some of the symptoms suffered by victims of the attacks, including hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, loss of sense of balance, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and trouble sleeping.

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