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An SAS soldier who fought terrorists in a Kenyan hotel siege while off-duty has been forced to reveal his identity after people kept impersonating him on social media and in pubs near the elite force’s Hereford base.
The Special Forces veteran, who uses the pseudonym Chris Craighead on Instagram, shared a photograph showing his face for the first time.
The image shows Craighead leading Kenyan security forces towards the luxury DusitD2 hotel in Nairobi in 2019 before storming the complex and defeating al-Shabaab terrorists.
In previously published pictures, his features were hidden – either by clothing or the blurring of images – to protect his identity after he ended the terror siege on the hotel which left at least 21 people dead.
But now, Craighead has decided to post an image showing his face because the ‘actions of others have forced my hand’.
A close friend of Craighead told MailOnline that the SAS veteran made the decision because people were impersonating him on social media and on the streets of Hereford.
The source said Craighead has also received threatening messages on social media saying ‘I know who you are’ and ‘I know what you look like’ after images circulated online.
Given that the images of him were becoming ‘increasingly available’, Craighead wanted to have the power to share the first image of his face.
The Special Forces veteran, who uses the pseudonym Chris Craighead on Instagram, shared a photograph showing his face for the first time. The image shows Craighead (right) leading Kenyan security forces towards the luxury DusitD2 hotel in Nairobi in 2019 before storming the complex and defeating al-Shabaab terrorists
In previously published pictures, his features were hidden so as to protect his identity. Pictured: Craighead and a security officer escort an injured man who was attacked in the terror siege
Craighead posted on Instagram: ‘I’m doing this earlier than I planned, but the actions of others have forced my hand into prematurely revealing my face.
‘This photo and others like it are becoming increasingly available, so I thought I should be the one to share the first with you.’
Craighead added: ‘Thank you to all those close to me who support, guide, assist, and keep me balanced during this time in my life.
‘Another big thank you to everyone around this planet who supports my page and its message.’
A source, who has been a close friend of Craighead for eight years, exclusively told MailOnline: ‘There’s a very specific reason why he has revealed his identity. And that is because he’s had a lot of people impersonating him with stolen valour claiming they are him. They have created a lot of fictitious accounts.
‘And on top of that as well, he’s had people sending him messages saying “we know who you are” and “we know what you look like”.’
The close friend added that there are a number of Walter Mitty types – referring to the character in the film The Secret Live of Walter Mitty who lives in a world of daydreams where he is a hero – who are claiming to be Craighead.
They have even been seen walking around Hereford and boasting to friends at the pub that they are Craighead and saved hundreds of people in Nairobi.
Craighead was awarded a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, a bravery medal second only to a Victoria Cross, for his response to the gun and grenade attack by the terrorists.
Images from the scene in Nairobi show the off-duty SAS hero wearing combat gear over a purple shirt and jeans as he entered the complex before emerging with terrified survivors.
The source said: ‘[Christian] knows of people are going round as Walter Mitty types – the regiment has a Walter Mitty hunters club where they basically go out and find these people who are impersonating and saying they’ve been in the regiment.
‘He knows of several individuals who’ve been running round claiming to be Christian Craighead.
‘They are running round with this stolen valour, which is the most despicable crime if you think about the honour and bravery you’ve got to have to rescue all those people.’
The source added: ‘It’s really disconcerting the amount of Walter Mitty’s running around claiming to be him. You’ve got to be a pretty despicable person to claim that you’re this hero who has been in this situation.
‘There are a number of them around, including in Hereford itself, it’s really quite something.’
Craighead was awarded a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, a bravery medal second only to a Victoria Cross, for his response to the gun and grenade attack by the terrorists
The source continued: ‘[Craighead] has heard – and it’s quite a common thing for people to do – someone goes into a pub, and say the old line ‘I can neither confirm or deny’ and you think ‘really?’.
‘And when people make those claims after having a couple of beers at the pub, people in the know will ask them a question about it.
‘There’s been this movement of people who want to claim that heroic act and claim they are him – these are people who are not in the military and have nothing to do with the military.
‘The thing about Hereford is that you can go around and individuals will wear certain elements of clothing that imply that they are in the special forces – certain gear that special forces would wear.’
It is also not just people who are impersonating Craighead in person – there have been scores of social media accounts.
‘There are a lot of social media accounts flying around of people claiming to be him.
‘People have got hold of images of him unmasked that were initially published at the time, and now the cat’s out of the bag so you might as well do it as yourself.’
Images from the scene show the off-duty SAS hero wearing combat gear over a purple shirt and jeans as he entered the complex before emerging with terrified survivors
Craighead is publishing a book entitled ‘One Man In: The Explosive Firsthand Account of the Lone Special-Ops Soldier Who Fought Off a Major Terrorist Attack in Kenya’ but the publication date has been delayed from July 2021.
This is because Craighead is working with the Ministry of Defence to check for confidentiality issues.
Under strict rules, Special Forces troops must not discuss their missions in public or seek to ‘cash in’ on operations.
The rules were introduced following the furore over books by ex-troopers Chris Ryan and Andy McNab which dramatically raised the SAS’s public profile and led to concerns over Special Forces troops leaking sensitive information which could compromise future operations.
Speaking about the book, Craighead’s close friend said: ‘Who knows about when the book will come out, but Chris has worked with the MOD right from the very start and continues to do so.
‘Most people in the world knew it happened , but nobody knows what actually happened, so hopefully it should be cleared.
‘Many of Chris’s peers past and present are hugely supportive of him and the book. A number of the guys from the regiment have also pre ordered copies of the book.’
Craighead had been stationed in Kenya to help train the nation’s soldiers and was off-duty when heavily armed jihadis from the al-Shabaab terror group seized the Dusit D2 luxury hotel complex, setting fire to vehicles, detonating explosions and embarking on a mass shooting.
The 19-hour siege left 21 dead, including British charity worker Luke Potter.
Craighead has previously published photos of himself during the hotel siege, but they have always had his features covered.
In one image posted on his Instagram account, he can be seen holding up his rifle while inside the hotel complex as he is joined by members of the security forces. Speaking about the image, he said: ‘This would have been taken around two hours or so into the incident. By this time I was working alongside members of the security forces, pictured in the foreground’
In one image, he can be seen holding up his rifle while inside the hotel complex as he is joined by members of the security forces.
Speaking about the image, he said: ‘This would have been taken around two hours or so into the incident. By this time I was working alongside members of the security forces, pictured in the foreground.’
Craighead also shared an image of him and former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019 after the President personally thanked the former SAS soldier for his efforts in the siege.
Craighead, whose lower part of his face is blurred in the image, wrote on Instagram in November 2020: ‘Last year I met the 45th President of the United States Donald J. Trump.
‘When he heard from key figures of the administration that I was in town, he took the time to thank me personally for saving American lives.’
His close friend said: ‘Lets not forget what happened in Nairobi on that day when he went in single handedly – one man in on his own – and saved many many lives, over 700 people were rescued on that day.
‘His actions were truly heroic on that day, so many will have followed that story and been inspired by his heroism and bravery.
Many lives were saved on that day, you only have to look at the comments on his Instagram account and that says it all.
‘Chris is a super humble guy, one of the geezers, he didn’t ask for the attention to fall on him, he just did what anyone else would do in that situation and that is to preserve and save lives. He is very proud of the regiment and what it stands for.’
The al-Shabaab terror group claimed that the attack was a response to US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Pictured: Craighead storming the hotel
Craighead shared a photo of himself meeting President Donald Trump on Instagram
The al-Shabaab terror group claimed that the attack was a response to US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
At the time, Joshua Kwambai, who rushed out of a restaurant as the terrorists opened fire, said Craighead was one of the first people to get out there.
Mr Kwambi added that the soldier was wearing a mask but it was obvious he was white – and he could see him speaking with the police and army, who were listening to him.
They had been looking at paper – possible plans of the building, he said.
Witness Lucy Njeri said the soldier carried out one of the wounded then went back inside to do so a second time.