As Qatar enters its fourth day of Eid al-Fitr festivities, several shoppers have reported seeing increased security at malls across Doha, in the form of additional guards, personnel checking vehicles for bombs and other measures.
Speaking to Doha News, several mall officials, including at Dar Al Salam, City Center and Hyatt Plaza, confirmed that they have upped their safety measures after receiving a government directive right before the holidays.
The move comes days after hotels around Doha were told to increase their own security by installing and using metal detectors at entrances, and scrutinizing incoming vehicles.
A week ago, churches at the religious complex also confirmed new safety measures that included closing off gated parking, introducing metal detectors and reducing opening hours, following orders from the government.
Security there has since increased dramatically, though it is unclear how long those measures will be in place.
Officials said they were not told the reasons behind the increased security, but the action comes at a time when “terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region,” the UK embassy told Doha News.
Last month, there was a deadly mosque attack in Kuwait, in which 27 people were killed and more than 200 injured. ISIL fighters took credit for the attack, which was carried out by a Saudi suicide bomber.
Speaking to Doha News, Zahid Iqbal, the operations manager at Dar Al Salaam mall, confirmed that extra security measures have been rolled out during Eid. He said:
“We’ve tightened security considerably. The undersides of all cars going into the basement are being checked with mirrors, and mall-goers are also requested to open their car boots for inspection. We’ve also hired extra security guards in the parking area and mall entrances.”
Iqbal added that the extra precautions, which took effect shortly before the holiday, were a result of a ministry directive, and would be in place until the end of the festivities early next week.
Several other malls, including City Center, have also said that they have added extra precautions after receiving advice from the government.
Speaking to Doha News, mall director Joerg Harengerd said: “It’s all to ensure people’s safety from any possible threat.”
“While we’re not necessarily checking cars, we have hired some 50 percent more security than we have normally, and have discussed a couple of other security measures with the CID (Criminal Investigation Department). We also have additional police presence around the mall. It’s not a government directive, per se, but they recommended that we should go for maximum security during the Eid time.”
Harengerd added that the mall routinely hosts high-profile festivals and events that also warrant additional security, and that the measures would be lifted by the coming weekend.
Hyatt Plaza also confirmed extra security, but an official there said the decision had more to do with increased shopping traffic due to the holidays than a government mandate.
Shoppers also observed guards stopping and checking vehicles at other malls and stores around town this week:
— Umer Shabib (@ushabib) July 16, 2015
@dohanews Landmark checking the underside of vehicles entering the underground car park today
— Nichola🏴🇶🇦 (@nilaree) July 13, 2015
@dohanews High security at IKEA too. Underside of cars being checked, basement parking shut, and no parking in spaces closest to building
— Amy Bambridge (@escapetoqatar) July 20, 2015
Meanwhile, Qatar’s churches have further increased their security this week, following the closure of their parking lots several days ago.
Yesterday, 11 new Al Fazaa and Lekhwiya cars could be observed patrolling the religious complex’s perimeter in Mesaimeer – up from a handful of vehicles a few weeks ago. A new fence has also gone up around the wall.
Additionally, though the religious complex’s various churches each previously had their own entrances, they are now only accessible through one gate, at which four security check-points have been set up.
The security checkpoints are housed in four tents equipped with metal detectors, X-ray scanners and two police personnel.
They been set up behind the newly fenced perimeter, and inside the complex’s main wall.
Vehicle access to the complex has also been restricted. Road blocks in the form of Al Fazaa cars have been set up at various points, and cars are now only allowed to enter up until the church’s external car park on the opposite side of the road, and exit through only one junction.
A makeshift police tent has also been set up at one of the roundabouts adjacent to the complex, and several policemen could be seen directing traffic, manning the gates, monitoring incoming crowds and walking around the area yesterday evening.
Speaking to Doha News, Selvaraj Arockiam, the parish priest at the Our Lady of Rosary Church, said that the new measures were instituted after a new government directive.
“This came into place late Thursday evening and Friday morning. News came down from the higher ups that there was additional security that would be put in place for our safety, and we complied. We’re still unsure when it will be lifted, but we’re hoping that things will go back to normal in the next few weeks,” he said.
Church congregants are advised to arrive several minutes prior to services to ensure they clear security in time.