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Kenyan Lawman Vows To Defeat Terrorism The Way He Fought Crime

Mohamud Saleh, shown here during a recent interview, built his reputation by greatly reducing crime in a lawless part of northeastern Kenya in the 1990s. After an absence of more than a decade, he's returned to battle terrorism, and argues that the same tactics will work this time as well. Gregory Warner/NPR

Can you fight terrorists the same way you battle ordinary criminals?

A prominent Kenyan crime fighter, Mohamud Saleh, is betting you can. He's testing his theory in Garissa, a city in northeastern Kenya thrust into the spotlight this April when Islamist militants attacked a campus dorm, killing 147 students.

Long before Garissa had a terrorism problem, it had a problem with bandits, as Daud Yussuf, a Kenyan journalist, remembers.

Back in 1993, Yussuf was a ninth-grader whose father couldn't afford his school fees. So Daud traveled 60 miles to his uncle to get the money. On the way back home, the bus was hijacked.

"They took all the personal belongings that we had, including my shoes and my school fees," he says. "So banditry was a menace."

Banditry was so bad in northeastern Kenya that it was seen as a separate, lawless region unto itself. It's the area along the Somali border, and its population is mostly ethnic Somali.

But that all began to change, in a near legendary manner, when Saleh was named as the new provincial coordinator. Saleh, who's an ethnic Somali himself, first moved to crack down on police harassment of citizens.

"Harassment was the order of day until Saleh arrived," Yussuf recalls. Click here to read the full report.


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