Blinken meets Colombia embassy staff hit by 'Havana Syndrome'

Bogota (AFP) – Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Thursday with US embassy personnel in Colombia hit by the mysterious "Havana Syndrome" and promised to work to protect their health.


On a visit to the embassy in Bogota, Blinken discussed what are officially referred to as "anomalous health incidents" in a meeting with staff and then met privately with those affected, a State Department official said.

"He heard their experiences and reiterated that the issue and their care is an absolute priority for him," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"He made clear that he has no higher priority than the health and safety of the workforce and emphasized that the department is determined to get to the bottom of AHIs, provide care to those affected and protect our colleagues around the world," he said.

So-called Havana Syndrome was first detected among US personnel in Cuba in 2016 with incidents since reported in China, Germany, Australia, Taiwan, the US capital and now Colombia.

The symptoms include headaches, nausea and possible brain damage triggered by what appear to be unusual sounds and microwave radiation.

The United States has not publicly named a culprit but a number of reports have suspected that the attacks are the work of foreign intelligence, possibly Russia, although other studies have speculated on other causes including viral hysteria.

It is unclear why Bogota would be a target but the embassy is one of the largest US missions in the world, with a strong contingent working in intelligence and counter-narcotics.

Blinken was finishing a three-day visit to South America. The stop to the embassy in Bogota featured at least one surprise -- an in-embassy band of diplomats welcomed him by playing one of Blinken's own songs.

An amateur guitarist who has performed at Washington clubs, Blinken joked about the song, "It really does sound a lot better than when I last heard it."