Afghanistan alleges foreign hand in hotel attack

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Associated Press

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 2:32 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 23 at 2:37 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's presidency says its spy agency believes that a foreign intelligence service, and not the country's main militant groups, was behind the attack on a Kabul hotel last week that killed nine people, including two children and four foreigners.

A statement from President Hamid Karzai's office said the spy agency briefed Afghanistan's top security officials.

In that briefing the agency said: "The attack on the Serena Hotel was a direct attack by an intelligence service outside the country."

It did not specify which country was purportedly responsible for the assault, but Afghanistan routinely accuses Pakistan of sending militants across the border to wage attacks. Pakistan did not immediately comment on the allegations.

The agency said neither the Taliban nor the Haqqani group, a network believed responsible for numerous high-profile attacks in Kabul, was even aware the attack was in the offing.

Afghanistan's National Security Council was also told that a Pakistani diplomat was spotted filming inside the Serena Hotel "a while ago," seeming to suggest that the incident was connected to Friday's horrific assault in which four gunmen, their small pistols hidden in their shoes, slipped passed the hotel security.

Once inside the hotel, they opened fire inside a restaurant and shot people at point blank range, including two small children and their parents. A senior reporter of Agence France-Presse, Sardar Ahmad, died in the rampage along with his wife and two young children. His infant son is in critical condition in a Kabul hospital with several bullet wounds. Two Canadians, an American, a national of Paraguay and a fifth Afghan were also among the dead.

Sardar and his family were buried Sunday amid tight security.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it shows that "our people, if they decide to attack any place, they can do it."

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, issued another statement on Sunday in which the movement still accepted responsibility for the attack but appeared to address the outrage over the killing of Sardar and his family.

It said it killed "foreign and internal agents" but the killing of the family was "not the work of the Islamic Emirate," without explaining further.

Afghanistan's interior ministry, which also briefed the National Security Council, said it had evidence of large numbers of students of madrassas or religious schools in Pakistan avowing to disrupt the April 5 polls for president as well as provincial council members.

Several Afghan Taliban leaders attended Pakistani madrassas.

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Kathy Gannon is Special Regional Correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan and can be followed on www.twitter.com/kathygannon

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