The true story behind the SAS operator in Kenya

SAS operator is seen speaking with another armed rescuer during hostage crisis in Kenya
SAS operator is seen speaking with another armed rescuer during hostage crisis in Kenya (Photo: AP:ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The story about SAS operator in Kenya has spread over the world after his lone actions and his reaction to last Tuesday’s terrorist attack in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. An unnamed operator of British Special Air Service (SAS) became famous overnight. Despite his identity is unknown to the public, he made headlines. World news agencies have speculated about his identity and outfit. Here is the true story behind the SAS operator in Kenya based on facts and analyses of security professionals.

British Territorial Army SAS

At first, he was “identified” as a Navy SEAL from SEAL Team 3 because he wore a Velcro patch that ST3 SEALs have been seen wearing. In fact, after some research, the truth is that he is not a “regular” SAS operator. Instead of that, he is part of the British Territorial Army SAS which is the reserve component of the famed Special Operations unit, according to the NEWSREP.

Chris Craighead: The true story behind the SAS operator in Kenya
A lone SAS operator in Kenya filmed assisting security forces during a terrorist attack on DusitD2 Hotel Complex in Nairobi (Photo: Getty)

The 21 SAS and 23 SAS Regiments are garrisoned by civilian volunteers who have undergone rigorous SAS selection and training. They are led by senior officers and non-commissioned officers coming from the active-duty 22 SAS Regiment. Unlike the regular SAS Regiment, it accepts members of the general population without prior military service.

The two special operation units had been part of the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) since its inception in the late 1980s. However, a recent organizational restructuring of the British Army brought them under the wing of the 1st Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Brigade in 2014. Still a SOF unit, they now focus more on SR and Human Environment Reconnaissance and Analysis (HERA) operations. Alongside these skill sets, they also conduct FID and advice and training missions.

Nairobi terror attack

The SAS operator who single-handedly stormed the luxury DusitD2 hotel was in Kenya on a training and advice mission. They were assigned to the local police and military counter-terrorist units. On a side note, during the terrorist attack, he was off-duty, but despite that, he assisted Kenyan special forces during the rescue operation.

The Territorial SAS Regiments have been mobilized for all the major conflicts in recent British history, including Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

SAS operator during siege of hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
The true story behind the SAS operator in Kenya: A long-serving member of the SAS is seen dragging a victim from the scene of the shooting (Photo: EPA)

On 1 September 2014, 23 SAS was placed alongside 21 SAS under the command of the 1st Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade, a brigade under Force Troops Command which provides combat specialist support to the British Army’s Reaction and Adaptable Forces.

Moreover, the unnamed operator has been nominated for the George’s Cross (GC), the equal standing to the Victoria Cross (VC), which is the British equivalent of the Medal of Honor. It is equal standing hence is the VC and GC Association, the VC comes first in lists as it was instituted first but they are both level one awards.

Aftermath

The aftermath of a deadly attack on the luxury hotel by the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which is affiliated with notorious al-Qaeda, brings the total toll of 21 people dead, including an American citizen, and dozens wounded. However, this attack also launched SAS into the public spotlight after a lone SAS operative entered the hotel and assisted the Kenyan security forces in taking over the hotel.

UPDATES (2020)

In the meantime, the SAS operator was awarded George’s Cross (GC) for his actions during the siege of the DusitD2 hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya.

Only a year after the events in Kenya, an unnamed SAS operative left the unit, opened an INSTAGRAM account, and started publishing details from the service. Under the username Chris Craighead, he also referred to the events during the hostage crisis in Kenya last year. According to him, he left the service because his comrades were jealous of his achievement.

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