USA expels 15 Cuban diplomats

Tillerson kicks out 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington over mystery attacks on Havana embassy which have left 22 Americans ill

The State Department told Cuba on Tuesday to withdraw more than half of its diplomats from Washington, another sign of deteriorating ties as the Trump administration tries to determine what happened to more than 20 US diplomats who suffered dizziness, hearing loss and other symptoms while serving in Havana.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration ordered the expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats from its embassy in Washington, after having withdrawn "more than half of its staff at the embassy in Havana" last week.

The recently re-opened USA embassy in Cuba will have its staffing reduced to emergency personnel only, and visa operations have been suspended indefinitely as a result of the action.

The US request marks yet another major setback for relations between the United States and Cuba, two countries that only recently renewed diplomatic relations after a half-century of hostility.

A senior State Department official told reporters Tuesday the Cuban diplomats have seven days to leave the country.

Cuba says during the second and third visits, it let the US import special equipment and granted access to all facilities.

The remaining personnel will carry out core diplomatic and consular functions, including providing emergency assistance to United States citizens in Cuba.

The attacks are said to be from sonic devices but the investigations have not found anything to confirm that.

Millions of Cuban families are caught in the middle with visas for Cuban visitors to the United States suspended.

Only 27 people now work at the Havana embassy.

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The total of Americans affected has now reached 22, with another medically confirmed case being announced on Tuesday.

Last week, Tillerson discussed the incident with Rodriguez, the highest-level diplomatic contact between the two former Cold War enemies since Donald Trump was sworn in as US president in January.

From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen.

Last week, the US announced that it was withdrawing 60 percent of its diplomats from Havana because they might be attacked and harmed if they stayed.

One possibility being explored is whether the stricken diplomats were made ill by a "sonic attack, " though the State Department has refrained from using that term.

On September 29, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, as well as all family members. The US had been "irresponsible" and "hasty" the island's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said, insisting that the State Department hadn't provided "a shred of evidence" as to the harm caused to US diplomats in the alleged attacks.

Cuba's government, for its part, has said it is not responsible and that it would never allow such weapons to be used against diplomats within its borders. The mysterious attacks have caused diziness, headaches and hearing loss.

For those staying and new arrivals, the USA has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress.

Some U.S. diplomats who were asked to leave Havana expressed their strong willingness to return in the near future.

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