March 24, 2014 - 10:05 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Afghanistan's presidency says its spy agency believes a foreign intelligence service - not militant groups - was behind the attack on a Kabul hotel that killed nine people, including two children and four foreigners.
A statement from President Hamid Karzai's office said the spy agency had briefed Afghanistan's top security officials on last week's attack, according to the Associated Press.
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 a Pakistani diplomat was spotted filming inside the Serena Hotel "a while ago", seeming to suggest the incident was connected to Friday's assault in which four gunmen, their small pistols hidden in their shoes, slipped past hotel security, according to the AP.
Once inside the hotel, they opened fire in a restaurant and shot people at point blank range, including two small children and their parents.
A senior AFP reporter, 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 Ahmad and his family were buried on 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 the reporter 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.