US investigates ′Havana Syndrome′ among Vienna diplomats | News | DW | 20.07.2021

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US investigates 'Havana Syndrome' among Vienna diplomats

Nearly two dozen US government personnel in Austria's capital have been reported to have suffered from a mysterious illness.

US State Department headquarters, Washington D.C.

Some US officials believe Russia could be behind the syndrome

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday said that President Joe Biden's administration was conducting a probe into reported cases of "Havana Syndrome" among American diplomats and intelligence officers in Vienna. 

Nearly two dozens cases among US government workers

A report published in the New Yorker magazine on Friday revealed that roughly two dozen US government workers in the Austrian capital have suffered from the ailment since Biden was inaugurated in January.

The symptoms of the syndrome include dizziness, headaches and hearing loss, among others. 

The Austrian government also said it is investigating the source of the health complaints.

"We take these reports very seriously and in line with our role as a host state we are working with the US authorities on jointly getting to the bottom of this," the Austrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on Saturday.  

"The safety of diplomats posted to Vienna and their families is of utmost importance to us," it added.

What could be behind the mysterious illness?

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Monday it is unclear what is behind the symptoms. The first reports of the syndrome occurred among dozens of US diplomats living in the Cuban capital of Havana in 2016. 

Anonymous US government officials told news outlet Politico in May that they believe Russia's military intelligence unit, the GRU, may be behind the cases.

Some scientists believe the syndrome may be caused by a "directed-energy" microwave weapon. Other researchers contend it may be linked to pesticides.

Vienna is a hub for international affairs in Europe, with foreign diplomats working at the UN and other global organizations in the Austrian capital.

wd/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)