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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

UK raises terrorism alert level for Qatar to ‘general’


Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The British government has upgraded its terrorism threat warning for Qatar, advising its nationals of a “general” risk of potential attacks.

According to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), this means there is “some level of known terrorism activity.”

Before yesterday, the online travel advice for Qatar said it was considered to be at an “underlying” risk of terrorism.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The FCO warned Britons in Qatar that potential attacks could be “indiscriminate, including places visited by foreigners.”

However, officials do not advise against traveling to Qatar.

In a statement to Doha News, a spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Qatar said:

“On 1 November we amended our Travel Advice for Qatar. We keep our travel advice under constant review.

Our advice makes clear that there is a general threat from terrorism in Qatar. We do not advise against travel to any part of Qatar.”

Gulf region

There has been no discussion recently about an increased threat to people in Qatar.

But threat levels internationally have been heightened in recent months, and the advisory likely refers to threats of attacks throughout the Gulf region.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This includes at residential compounds, places of worship, military, oil, transport and aviation-related areas of interest.

In its advice to the approximately 20,000 British nationals living in Qatar, and further 40,000 who visit the country annually, the FCO added:

“You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations.”

Lowest in Gulf

The FCO grades countries according to four perceived threat levels – low, underlying, general and high.

Qatar remains at a lower rating than most other states in the Gulf region. For example, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are all classified as being at “high” risk of attack for British nationals.

Dubai at night, showing the Burj Khalifa towering over other skyscrapers
Dubai at night, showing the Burj Khalifa towering over other skyscrapers

This means there is a “high risk of terrorist activity” in those countries.

Meanwhile, Oman is rated as being of “general” risk.

The threat level in Qatar is also lower than that in the UK itself.

The British security service MI5 currently rates the threat level for international terrorism in the UK as “severe,” meaning an attack is highly likely.

Around the world

Terror threat levels in several countries around the world have increased in recent months, including in Turkey.

But the UK appears to be among the only nations to revise its advisory for Qatar this week.

The most recent safety and security alert issued by the US Embassy in Doha was in June last year, ahead of the start of Ramadan, according to its website.

At that time, there was an increase in security precautions in Qatar, particularly at the religious complex, in malls and at hotels, which installed security arches at their entrances.

Hamad Airport security
Hamad Airport security

While Hamad International Airport (HIA) did step up its security protocol this year for Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha, there was no repeat of vehicle checks at malls.

In its 2016 Qatar crime and safety report, published in March this year, the US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (OSAC) rated the terrorism threat in the country as “medium.”

“The possibility of a terrorist attack against US interests in Qatar cannot be dismissed,” it said.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

There have been no overt attacks in Doha for more than 10 years, when a suicide bomber crashed a car into the Doha Players’ theater, killing one Briton and injuring around a dozen others.

However, it noted that in April last year, an on-duty guard outside the US Embassy in Doha’s Al Luqta neighborhood was attacked by an individual with a knife.

“The attacker was quickly subdued by guards and authorities,” the report added.

At the time, the embassy said that a man attacked a guard, but added “there is no change to the overall security environment in Qatar.”


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