The Trump administration on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of 15 diplomats from Cuba's embassy in Washington following last week´s USA move to pull more than half of its own diplomats out of Havana, a State Department official said.
The US request marks yet another major setback for relations between the US and Cuba, two countries that only recently renewed diplomatic relations after a half-century of hostility.
The attacks, which U.S. officials initially suggested could have come from some sort of covert acoustic device, have affected at least 22 USA embassy staff in Havana over the past few months.
The U.S.is "expelling" the Cuban diplomats but is not declaring them 'persona non grata, ' a designation that would prevent them from ever returning. The officials weren't authorized to discuss the plan publicly and requested anonymity.
Cuba said during the second and third visits, it let the United States import special equipment and granted access to all facilities.
Cuba has denied involvement in the attacks. U.S. officials said they were not aware of any American tourists being affected by the health incidents, but that because USA officials had been "attacked" in their Havana hotels, the United States couldn't ensure the safety of other Americans.
In late September, Tillerson said he was withdrawing more than half the personnel from its embassy in Cuba in response to the mysterious attacks.
The dual moves marked a sharp escalation in the US response to attacks that began almost a year ago and yet remain unexplained despite harming at least 22 Americans - including a new victim identified this week.
The move came nine months after the injuries were first reported.
"By these politically motivated and thoughtless actions, the U.S. government is responsible for the current and possibly future deterioration of bilateral relations", he said.
"While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump's surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it", they wrote.
United States authorities confirmed in August that at least 21 Americans working at the embassy in Havana had suffered physical debilitations.
A US investigation into the matter is still ongoing. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have also exerted similar pressure on the administration.
The Trump administration has said that 21 USA diplomats have been affected, but according to the three journalists, investigators discovered that numerous first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the Havana embassy.
The embassies were powerful symbols of a warming relationship.
The US previously had roughly 50 American workers at its embassy in Havana, so the 60 percent reduction will bring the figure down to roughly 20.
But he said his decision to withdraw 60 percent of US diplomats from the embassy in Havana will remain in effect until Cuba can ensure that American diplomats there are safe.
The Canadian government said there have been no known Canadian victims since the spring.
The US as well issued a travel warning for Americans thinking of visiting the communist-run island.
At least 21 diplomats and family members have been affected.
The AP reported Monday that US intelligence agents working at the embassy under diplomatic cover were among the first and most severely affected victims of the attacks, which began shortly after President Donald Trump's election in November. The departing Americans are expected to have all left Cuba by week's end, officials said.
In 2015, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro restored diplomatic ties, ordered embassies re-opened and eased travel and commerce restrictions.
To medical investigators' dismay, symptoms have varied widely.
The diplomats had complained about hearing loss, nausea, headaches and balance issues. The AP has reported some now suffer from problems with concentration and common word recall.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.