INTEL FIRST

Mombasa detectives change tack in fight against drugs

New strategy helps unearth accomplices and underworld operations of the narcotics trade

In Summary

• In the new strategy, ANU and National Intelligence Service detectives monitor suspects and the contacts in their network over long periods of time.

• The method, detectives say, helps unearth accomplices and underworld operations of the drugs trade.

Coast police chiefs inspect sachets of heroin and cocaine at regional police headquarters in Mombasa, on August 25, 2019
Coast police chiefs inspect sachets of heroin and cocaine at regional police headquarters in Mombasa, on August 25, 2019
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Detectives from the Anti-Narcotics Unit on September 25 last year intercepted a vehicle belonging to Mohammed Bakari in Kisauni subcounty.

They searched the Toyota Wish saloon car and found cocaine concealed in a woven shopping bag wrapped with a clear nylon paper in the boot. The officers arrested Bakari.

Earlier in July, a multiagency team had arrested Mohamed Mansur, alias Surur, a fugitive wanted for poaching and narcotics trafficking in the US.

The officers, including those from the Interpol, apprehended Surur at Mombasa's Moi International Airport.

The operation was led by ANU chief Hamisi Masa, described by detectives as no-nonsense boss passionate in the fight against drugs.

Coast regional DCI commander Washington Njiiru said the arrest was possible because of cooperation between members of the community and detectives.

“He was a religious person and nobody could have doubted him if not for efforts from many stakeholders,” he said.

The two arrests were the culmination of a new, intelligence-based strategy in the fight against drug barons.

“Nowadays when you brief us of a suspected trafficker, we don’t rush; we take time to gather enough information so that when we raid, we get the evidence,” an ANU officer told the Star.

In the new strategy, ANU and National Intelligence Service detectives monitor suspects and the contacts in their network over long periods of time.

The method, detectives say, helps unearth accomplices and underworld operations of the drugs trade.

The new tactic borrows from the method used to arrest and extradite Baktash and Ibrahim Akasha who are now serving 25 and 23 years respectively in the US.

The arrest was made possible thanks to US Drug Enforcement Administration informants who took time to penetrate the Akashas’s organisation.

DEA undercover detectives posed as members of different drugs organisations who were interested in partnering with the Akashas.

The brothers fell for the trick and at one time supplied 99 kg of heroin and 2kg of methamphetamine to the DEA informants. They promised to provide hundreds of kilogrammes more of each, according to court documents.

Despite the change of tack, there were fewer arrests of drug peddlers and seizures of substances last. First, because of the coronavirus but also due to the enhanced coordination.  

ANU detectives they have been given a free rein and have little interference from top security chiefs.

“There is a time we used to arrest a suspect, then you get a phone call from a senior government official who demand to know why you arrested the suspect. Nowadays, we don’t have that problem,” an official said.

Sources say arrested traffickers offer a bribe of up to Sh300,000 to be released. Some officers pocket the cash.   

Previously, police mostly arrested youths with small quantities of bhang, cocaine and heroin, with activists saying these were mere publicity stunts

“Instead of just arresting the peddlers, we now take them for rehabilitation and once they recover they give us the line up even for the drug users. Instead of taking them as criminals, we treat them as patients, once they change they open up about the networks,” Njiiru told the Star.

He said they work with the Immigration department, KRA, transport and trade players and the anti-counterfeit agency.

The most trafficked drug is heroin, with one kilogramme worth Sh3 million (street value).

Police say the more expensive cocaine is used by the wealthy, tourists and politicians. A kilo of cocaine goes for Sh4 million.

“Don’t forget that drug trafficking is international, we are also cooperating with neighbouring countries and have links with where these drugs come from; we have seen just our own efforts on arrests don’t bear much fruit,” he said.

With these efforts police hope to cut supply before it reaches the consumer and eventually save the youth from addiction and reduce crime.

 

(edited by o. owino)