DOHA, Qatar – A car bomb tore through a theater popular with Westerners during a performance Saturday in Qatar, killing one person, officials said.
Twelve other people were injured in the blast in the northern suburb, Qatar’s Interior Ministry said in a statement. It gave no other details on the explosion.
The British Foreign Office confirmed the fatality was a British national, but did not identify the victim.
Al-Arabiya satellite news network, citing Qatari sources, reported that two people were killed and 16 injured in the Saturday evening blast at the Doha Players Theater.
“I saw people lying on the ground. I think they were in shock because of the explosion. They were mostly foreigners,” said Ahmed Goudah, a witness who spoke from the scene.
Goudah said dozens of cars were smashed with shattered windows. Some were engulfed in flames. Firefighters and emergency vehicles converged on the area, which was sealed off by police.
He said ambulances were seen carrying the injured and transferring them to hospital.
U.S. Army Capt. Eric Clark, who is based in Qatar, said he spoke with a woman who was performing in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” when a blast shook the hall at about 9:15 p.m.
“She heard a massive explosion and there was mass chaos and people just exited the building,” Clark said by telephone.
Al-Jazeera Arab television quoted the Interior Ministry as saying that the car used in the explosion was owned by an Egyptian who left his home in the morning and had not returned.
Earlier, Gen. Ahmed Al-Hariki of the Interior Ministry told Al-Jazeera that the blast occurred at a restaurant inside the theater.
The theater is a popular venue for non-Qataris from Western and Arab countries and is located in Farek Kelab, a northern suburb of the capital.
A British school is located nearby. The U.S. Embassy is six miles away, and a U.S. military base is almost 12 miles away.
Eric Mattey, a spokesman for the British embassy in Doha, told Britain’s Press Association news agency that a number of people outside the theater had been injured.
“We believe there have been some injuries but it was from flying glass more than anything else,” he said.
Such violence is rare in Qatar, a small, quiet country with tight security. The last incident of this type was the February 2004 car bomb assassination of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a rebel leader and former Chechen president who had lived in Qatar for several years.
A Qatari court later convicted two Russian intelligence officers of the murder and sentenced them to 25 years in prison
Energy-rich Qatar is a close ally of the United States in the Gulf. The country is home to the U.S. Central Command’s forward operations in the Middle East.