Several international construction and engineering firms in Qatar have issued security advice to staff this week after two separate incidents in which company bus drivers were attacked and injured.
Both incidents took place on an under-construction QR3.26 billion orbital expressway and truck route that is being built between Al Khor to the north of Doha and Mesaieed to the south of the capital, which is set to open in 2017.
Neither Ashghal nor KBR have officially commented on the incidents, though witnesses and company employees have shared details of the attacks.
Additionally, the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (OSAC) has circulated private memos about the incidents to international companies in Qatar.
OSAC is a collaboration between the US government and private-sector businesses, which monitors and reports on security issues for US-based companies overseas.
According to OSAC, the most recent attack took place at 5:30am on Saturday, Sept. 5, when a minibus carrying expat workers on Al Kharara Road (the under-construction truck route and orbital highway) heading toward Mesaieed was stopped by a man in an SUV.
The man, whose identity has not been confirmed, reportedly fired shots from a gun at the minibus.
The driver of that vehicle, which carried employees of an KBR sub-contractor, was injured by flying fragments of broken glass.
He received medical attention, and his injuries were understood to have been minor. No one else was physically harmed in the incident, although the workers were checked over by medics.
OSAC added that the gunman was taken into police custody and criminal investigations are ongoing. His motivations for the attack remain unclear.
The shooting incident came just three days after a bus carrying employees of an unnamed US company was stopped on the same route, while going in the opposite direction toward Salwa Road.
Just after 5am on Wednesday, Sept. 2, the bus was forced to stop by a speeding SUV. According to the OSAC advisory, the unidentified driver of that car forced the bus driver out of his vehicle and started to beat him.
The police were called and the individuals involved were reportedly detained.
Following the reports, employees at major firms said they have been advised not to stop their vehicles if signaled to do so by unmarked cars.
The incidents come at a time of heightened security in Qatar, with shopping malls, hotels and the religious complex all employing additional protocols that include the use of metal detectors and new checks on vehicles for bombs.
These were put in place in early July, ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, and are ongoing.
Speaking to Doha News, the US Embassy in Qatar said it has not issued any specific advice to citizens following the reported incidents and that there are no travel warnings or travel alerts currently in effect for Americans in Qatar.
In a statement, a US embassy spokesman said it is required by law to share with American citizens in Qatar any “information that affects the safety or security of American citizens in Qatar,” and such updates are published on its website.
Americans in Qatar can also register with its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which issues the latest security updates by email or text message, the spokesman added.
General security advice to US citizens on the website of the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs states:
“Incidents of violence are rare in Qatar, although attacks against Western targets have occurred…U.S. citizens in Qatar should maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security at all times.”