Spotlight News 7/8/2015

Authorities in Egypt Arrest 13 Suspected of Planting Bombs in Effort to Interrupt Shipping Through the Suez Canal

Egyptian authorities arrested 13 people who planted bombs along the Suez Canal in an alleged effort to interrupt shipping through the waterway. One of the detained suspects is an employee of the Suez Canal Authority. Prosecutors say the members of the cell had already laid explosives on beaches and in sanitation and electricity facilities along the canal before they were detained. All 13 of the suspects are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Islamist organization that Egyptian authorities consider a terrorist group and routinely accuse of plotting anti-government activities.

As a critical part of the global supply chain, the Suez Canal represents a major target for anti-government groups seeking to cause disruptions in Egypt. Around eight percent of all seaborne trade, including about 6,000 container ships, passes through the canal each year, underscoring the potential economic impact if the waterway was forced to close. Islamic extremists have repeatedly sought to carry out attacks on the Suez Canal in recent years, highlighted most notably when terrorists struck a passing containership with a rocket-propelled grenade in August 2013. Such incidents illustrate the vulnerability of the 120-mile-long waterway, despite relatively strong efforts by Egyptian security forces to provide protection for the canal and transiting vessels.

U.S. FDA Issues Warning After Counterfeit Medication Injures Hundreds in Central Africa

A counterfeit version of a popular medication used to treat anxiety and other conditions is currently in circulation in central Africa, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The counterfeit medication contains none of the proper active pharmaceutical ingredients but instead contains a powerful dose of an incorrect ingredient primarily used to treat disorders such as schizophrenia. The counterfeit drugs are labeled with the name of an Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer that commonly sells generic drugs in the region.

Since December, more than 700 people have been injured in central Africa, including 400 in the DRC, with acute reactions affecting their face, neck, and tongue muscles as a result of ingesting the counterfeit medicine. Following the reports of the widespread injuries, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recently issued a notice warning American and other consumers about the potential health risks of purchasing the anxiety medication from online retailers.

Authorities in Buenos Aires, Argentina Dismantle Textile Workshop Employing Slave Labor to Produce Police Uniforms

Authorities in Buenos Aires, Argentina arrested four individuals who operated a textile workshop and employed an undisclosed number of slave laborers to produce police uniforms. Police learned of the location of the workshop after one of the slave laborers was able to escape the facility. Officials indicated that most of the slave laborers are of Bolivian nationality and were lured to Argentina with false promises of high-paying work. The operators of the workshop proceeded to withhold the documents of the laborers in order to force them to work and remain on premises.

Forced labor is a major issue in Argentina, especially in sweatshops in the country’s textile industry. Employees in these sweatshops often work around 16 hours per day in cramped quarters that can hamper workers’ health. As exemplified in this incident, most slave laborers in the country are of Bolivian nationality and are trafficked to work in Argentina under the false promise of receiving a high paying job.