Total number of Americans hurt in Cuba sonic attacks now at 25

Sources tell Local 10 News some happened inside embassy, at Havana hotels

HAVANA, Cuba – According to sources familiar with the investigation, the number of Americans hurt in the alleged "sonic device" attacks has now reached 25, with some cases still pending ongoing testing, which could increase that number. 

Sources who want to remain anonymous also revealed new information, telling Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela some of the incidents happened inside the embassy itself and at multiple Havana hotels, including the famous Nacional Hotel. 

Up to this point, it has been reported victims were attacked near or outside their Havana homes, and one of the victims was attacked at Havana's Hotel Capri in the Vedado neighborhood. 

In light of the attacks and ongoing investigation, the U.S. government is reportedly close to making a decision to possibly suspend operations in Havana. 

On Sept. 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. government was reviewing whether or not to close down the American embassy in Havana. 

"We have it under evaluation," Tillerson said. "It's a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered."

Sources told Local 10 News there is great discontent among the victims, who remain disappointed at the way the U.S. government handled the situation. Their major complain is that it took too long for high ranking officials in Havana and Washington to take action. 

Over the weekend, CNN reported diplomats and their families have been attacked nearly 50 times

On Monday, the same day this story was published, Cuban state-run media printed a report in which an unnamed high-ranking Cuban official said Cuba does not have the sort of equipment that can be used for this type of attack.

The report adds Cuba doesn't have precedent with this type of attack.

On Friday, Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, while addressing the United Nations, once again denied responsibility and added the Cuban government complies with its obligations to protect all diplomats on the island.

"Cuba has never perpetrated, nor will it ever perpetrate, actions of this sort," Rodriguez said. "Cuba has never allowed, nor will it ever allow, its territory to be used by third parties with that purpose."

Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez speaks to the United Nations.

Rodriguez added results from a preliminary investigation being conducted at the highest level of his government, which includes U.S. supplied data, up to this point shows no evidence that confirms a cause or origin related to the health issues being reported by the American diplomats and their families.

"The investigation to clarify this issue continues, and in order to be able to arrive to a conclusion, it will be crucial to count on the cooperation of the U.S. authorities," Rodriguez said. "It would be unfortunate if a matter of this nature is politicized."

On Sept. 15, The Associated Press reported Cuba's President Raul Castro was so rattled by what's happening, he sent for the top American envoy in the country to address grave concerns about the attacks. 

The way Castro responded surprised Washington, several U.S. officials familiar with the exchange told The Associated Press. 

In a rare face-to-face conversation, Castro told U.S. diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis that he was equally baffled and concerned. Castro denied any responsibility. 

The Cubans have allowed several investigative agencies, including the FBI, to spend time on the communist-run island and seek out answers. 

In a country tightly controlled by the government, Americans investigators are still looking into whether a rogue faction in Cuba's security forces acted in defiance with the Castro government and possibly collaborated with another country, like Russia. 

On Aug. 23, Local 10 News was the first media outlet in the country to report that there could be up to 19 victims. Days later, the State Department confirmed those numbers and subsequently increased the number of victims to 21.

Canadian diplomats have suffered similar health problems and believe they were victims of similar attacks. 

Back in August, Local 10 News also learned some of the victims were treated at the University of Miami by a doctor who specializes in ear and brain damage. 

There is a history of American diplomats being harassed while working in Havana, but never this severe. 

While living and working in Havana, some of these same victims of "sonic attacks" were constantly under overt surveillance. Their cars were vandalized, phones tapped, homes broken into, human waste left in toilets, their clothing soaked in urine and pets even poisoned.

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.