A suspected sonic weapons attack hit the U.S. Embassy in Colombia this week, impacting at least five American families who identified symptoms linked to the mysterious illness known as Havana Syndrome, people familiar with the situation said. The attack comes just days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to visit.
Emails from Ambassador Philip Goldberg and others reviewed by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday showed the State Department has vowed to take the matter “seriously, with objectivity and with sensitivity.” The department said it will work to determine the extent of the attack.
The embassy is one of the largest operated by the United States in the world and has a significant presence of intelligence agents and anti-narcotics operatives.
In September, embassy personnel were sent an email warning of “an unexplained health incident.” Another email was sent on October 1, notifying staff that an investigation regarding “additional Anomalous Health Incidents” was underway.
The second email noted that “there is no stigma to reporting any health-related incident in which the underlying causes are not known.”
Multiple officials said two cases were initially reported, but several more appear to have been affected by the attack. At least one family was transported out of Colombia for treatment.
“There was definitely a family, including a minor hit,” said one person with knowledge of the attack. “Adults sign up for what they sign up for and the risks that come with it…. Targeting or even incidentally hitting kids should be a hard red line.”
Some of the Americans who have been afflicted with the mysterious illness in Colombia work in intelligence, a former high-ranking U.S. diplomat said.
“Globally, this has been weighted toward the intelligence community,” the former diplomat added.
“These are technologies that are directed toward a place where people live,” he continued when asked how the attacks are impacting family members. “If it’s a microwave or some other kind of advanced technology, it would affect other people.”
Ahead of Sec. Blinken’s anticipated trip to Latin America, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department is making sure all individuals are given the “prompt care they need” when they report symptoms linked to Havana Syndrome.
Last week, President Joe Biden signed the HAVANA Act into law to provide support for those affected by the mysterious attacks. Biden also said it was his priority to investigate the source of the attacks.
In September, the Pentagon requested that all military, civilian and contractor personnel report any unexplained health issues possibly linked to mysterious sonic weapons attacks. The directive is part of a broader effort to increase reporting globally and to help counterintelligence investigators collect data about the “Havana Syndrome” illnesses that have impacted at least 200 Americans.