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US investigates Russian 'energy' attacks on its troops in Syria

A Russian surface-to-air missile systems Pantsir S-1 is pictured at the Russian military base of Hmeimim, located south-east of the city of Latakia in Hmeimim, Latakia Governorate, Syria, on September 26, 2019. - With military backing from Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's forces have retaken large parts of Syria from rebels and jihadists since 2015, and now control around 60 percent of the country. Russia often refers to troops it deployed in Syria as military advisers even though its forces and warplanes are also directly involved in battles against jihadists and other rebels (Photo by Maxime POPOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read MAXIME POPOV/AFP via Getty Images)
A Russian surface-to-air missile systems Pantsir S-1 is pictured at the Russian military base in Syria, on 26 September 2019. [MAXIME POPOV/AFP/Getty Images]

The United States is currently conducting an investigation into what are believed to be concentrated electromagnetic energy attacks on its troops deployed overseas, which it suspects are committed by Russia, the American journal Politico has reported.

Citing four former national security officials involved in the investigation along with two anonymous sources, Politico revealed that US troops in Syria mysteriously developed flu-like symptoms last year, sustaining undetailed injuries as a result of their illnesses.

The troops' symptoms reportedly closely resembled those suffered by US diplomats in Cuba who underwent bouts of "Havana syndrome" a few years ago. They include acute ringing noise and pressure in ears, loss of hearing and balance, fatigue, lingering headaches and, in some cases, even long-term brain damage.

After those symptoms were found to have affected American diplomatic staff in Cuba and other countries such as China and Russia, the State Department released a report in December last year pointing to "directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy" purposefully targeting the diplomats and agents.

READ: Syria and the escalation in US-Russia hostility

Consisting of highly concentrated energy, such as high-powered radio frequency or microwave devices and lasers which can harm targets, these attacks can take a variety of forms. The jamming of electronic equipment, for example, or the infliction of pain or permanent injuries on individuals.

The primary suspect in such attacks over the past few years has been Russia. Given that the same symptoms have reappeared in Syria where both US and Russian forces are based, the Pentagon is said to hold Moscow responsible.

Not everyone in Washington agrees, however. The head of US Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, addressed lawmakers during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and said that he had seen "no evidence" of such energy attacks against US troops in the Middle East.

In February this year, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched its own investigation into the attacks on its operatives abroad. However, this is the first time that such attacks on troops in the Middle East have been reported.

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