Updated at 5pm with information about mall security.
Several hotels in Qatar have been beefing up security measures in the run-up to the Eid al-Fitr holiday over the past few weeks, with some installing metal security arches and others saying they’ve been told to pay close attention to vehicles on the premises.
Meanwhile, the US state department has issued an advisory to citizens living and working here, warning them to be vigilant during this time.
Speaking to Doha News, a spokeswoman for the InterContinental Doha hotel said that metal detectors were added to the lobby and service entrance around five days ago, following a directive from the Ministry of Interior.
A spokesman for the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha hotel also confirmed that the building recently installed security arches at its entrances, but said he did not know if this was a government order.
Additionally, some hotel representatives said that MOI officials met with hotel security managers yesterday to discuss the latest safety protocols, which are to be in place at least through the Eid holiday.
While most Doha hotels already have security equipment like metal detectors, they are usually only deployed for large events or when VIPs are on the premises, one representative added.
The increased measures follow tightened security at churches in Qatar’s religious complex this week.
Following a directive from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the churches have closed their gated parking, introduced metal detectors and enhanced security personnel.
Last week, the US Embassy in Doha issued a security message to its citizens, warning them to “remain vigilant regarding their personal security” as Ramadan draws to an end, particularly while visiting public places such as malls and hotels.
The statement reads:
“The U.S. Embassy takes this opportunity to remind U.S. citizens in Qatar that places Westerners frequent, such as hotels and malls, remain targets for extremists, especially as the end of Ramadan and Eid approach. All U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Qatar should remain vigilant regarding their personal security and alert to local security developments,” the statement said.
The advisory also appeared on the United States’ Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security website, and is understood to have been circulated among US companies with a presence in Qatar.
While there has been no further details about the nature of the potential security threat, the increased measures follow a deadly mosque attack in Kuwait on June 26, in which 27 people were killed and more than 200 injured.
On the same day, Western tourists were also targeted in an attack on a beach and hotels in the holiday resort of Port El Kantauoui near Sousse. A Tunisian gunman killed 38 people.
Though the British embassy has not issued any advisories in recent days, a representative sent this statement to Doha News when asked about the upcoming holidays:
“The Foreign and Commonwealth office regularly reviews its travel advice for British citizens in Qatar. As stated in our existing advice, terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region.
These include references to attacks on Western interests, including residential compounds, places of worship, military, oil, transport and aviation interests. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations and remain vigilant at all times.”
At least one shopping center in Qatar has also put in place enhanced security, with several shoppers reporting that guards at Landmark Mall could be seen stopping vehicles today as they entered the underground parking lot and checking their undersides with mirrors.
However, managers at City Center mall in West Bay and Hyatt Plaza in Al Waab told Doha News that they had not received any instructions to change their security protocols.
In neighboring Saudi Arabia, malls across the country have raised their security measures ahead of the Eid celebrations, Arabian Business reports.
Extra security staff have been drafted and more CCTV installed as the country’s major cities prepare for a busy weekend amid increasing tensions in the region, Arab News reports.
Shia mosques have been the target of attacks recently in the kingdom, with four people killed in Dammam in the east of the country in late May, a week after an attack on another mosque in Qatif province.