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Cases of ‘Havana Syndrome’ Reported to US Embassy in Colombia


WASHINGTON — The State Department is investigating new complaints of brain injuries related to so-called Havana syndrome at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, a senior government official said Tuesday, a week before Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is scheduled to leave the country.

It was not clear how many people at the embassy in Bogotá, the Colombian capital, might have been affected by the mysterious illness and its symptoms of headaches, nausea, dizziness and memory loss. State Department spokesman Ned Price said officials would ensure workers “get the prompt care they need, in whatever form it takes,” but he did not describe the complaints in Colombia during a briefing in Washington. .

The senior administration official confirmed the complaints, previously reported by The Wall Street Journal, and said it appeared that at least two embassy employees had reported the symptoms.

Colombia’s President Iván Duque said his country was aware of the reports. In an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday, Mr. Duque that while the United States was leading the way, Colombian intelligence was also investigating.

More than 200 U.S. government officials — spies, diplomats, military troops and others — have been affected by the disease in diplomatic missions in several countries, including Cuba, over the past five years. Reports of an outbreak in Hanoi, Vietnam, delayed Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit in August by a few hours.

While the origins of Havana syndrome remain unknown, the symptoms are similar to those caused by surveillance equipment used by Russia during the Cold War. This summer, however, US intelligence officials struggled to find evidence that the condition resulted from microwave attacks by Russian agents — a theory put forward in a December study by the National Academy of Sciences.

More than half of the victims were CIA operatives, and Congress has approved increased support for US officials affected by the disease. Last month, the House Intelligence Committee also demanded more resources to help find the cause of the illnesses and to review the CIA’s handling of cases.

The National Security Council and the State Department have set up task forces to investigate the reported injuries, which were a major concern to Mr Blinken before he took office. He is not expected to cancel or postpone his trip to Colombia, where he is likely to address the issue of migrants and the political and humanitarian crisis in neighboring Venezuela.

Mr Price said the State Department had tried to be more open with employees about reported attacks on diplomatic posts, tried aggressively to determine the cause and provided care to people complaining of symptoms.

“We have taken a number of steps, including in the areas of communication, care, tracing and protection of our staff,” he said. “And that remains a priority for the secretary.”

Julian E. Barnes reporting contributed.

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