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Theatre blast stuns Qatar

Qatar is in shock after a car bomb attack killed one Briton and injured 12 others at a Doha theatre packed with Westerners on Saturday evening.

Gulf News

Qatar is in shock after a car bomb attack killed one Briton and injured 12 others at a Doha theatre packed with Westerners on Saturday evening.

The British Embassy confirmed that the victim was a UK national. Ten of the injured of various nationalities were discharged, while two remained hospitalised, said Bassam Tahtamouni, an officer at the British Embassy.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack which was carried out by a suicide bomber, an official from the Ministry of Interior said yesterday.

Brigadier Ahmad Al Haiki, assistant director of General Security told Al Jazeera television that an investigation has been launched.

"It is premature to make any inferences or link it to the attacks in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait," he said.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera quoted the ministry as saying that the vehicle was registered in the name of an Egyptian who had not returned home since Saturday morning.

The attack took place at 8.45pm on Saturday when the bomber rammed his vehicle into the popular theatre, where an amateur group was staging a play.

About 100 people, mostly British and Western expatriates, were watching the play. A prominent Qatari family was also among the spectators, a source told Gulf News.

The theatre located next to Doha English Speaking School's compound in Madinat Khalifa area was destroyed by the blast. The explosion also damaged the school. The theatre was engulfed in flames and the building collapsed soon after, witnesses said.

The blast destroyed the cars parked nearby and also damaged houses in the area up to 200 yards away.

Police and civil defence officials rushed to the site and it took about six hours to douse the fire.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani, Minister of State for Interior Affairs, accompanied by other senior officials, visited the site soon after the blast.

Speaking to Gulf News, Stuart Walton, a member of the Doha Players, the group staging the play, said the blast took place a few minutes after the intermission.

He said the bomber rammed the car into the building where cafeteria was, located adding, "A few minutes earlier about 100 of the audience with their children were having refreshments.

"Luckily all them had returned to the main hall, which is quite protected," he said.

Walton said the British national, upon hearing the car crash, rushed out the back door.

"Suddenly, the explosion took place and he was sent flying back into the building. A person tried to resuscitate him but it was too late." He said people managed to escape from the auditorium before the fire engulfed it.

"We never expected this and anothing like this has ever happened in Qatar," he said.

The Doha Players was founded in 1954 and has been staging plays in the same theatre since 1978.

Doha Players is the first amateur group to have its own, purpose-built theatre.