White House removes 15 Cuban diplomats following unknown 'health attacks'

 The Trump administration expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the country's embassy in Washington, D.C. in response to a number of health attacks affecting at least 22 individuals since last year, according to The New York Times.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a press statement the expulsion is "due to Cuba's failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention," The New York Times reports.

The Cuban ambassador was reportedly notified of the expulsions during a phone call Tuesday morning, U.S. Department of State officials said during a press briefing the same day. The 15 individuals must leave the U.S. within seven days.

Federal officials said the expulsion is intended to force the Cuban government to operate under similar conditions to the U.S.'s presence in Cuba, according to the report. The U.S. cut its staff at the embassy in Cuba by 60 percent last week. A group of 27 people remain in Havana to carry out emergency services at the embassy.

State Department officials told The New York Times the Cuban government would have to "give clear assurance that the [health] attacks would not continue before the personnel in either embassy could return." However, officials maintained the White House was not accusing the Cuban government of complicity in the attacks.

Several American and Canadian diplomats and their spouses began experiencing various illnesses last December. Seventeen of the individuals who became ill were U.S. government employees, while four were spouses of employees, the report states. The injuries ranged from hearing loss, dizziness, visual problems and cognitive issues, among others.

The U.S. expelled two low-level Cuban diplomats in May in response to the attacks, the report states.

Federal officials also issued a travel warning advising American citizens not to travel to Cuba. U.S. officials' travel to Cuba will be limited to those investigating the health attacks and those with business related to U.S. national security interests.

Federal investigators allowed entry in Cuba have not determined the causes of the illnesses. The Cuban government also conducted an independent investigation into the issue.

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