Afghanistan accused Pakistan’s intelligence agencies of planning an attack last week at a luxurious Kabul hotel that killed nine people, increasing tensions between the neighbors before an April 5 election.
Afghanistan is investigating how the militants smuggled weapons inside the hotel, according to a statement yesterday from the National Directorate of Security, the country’s intelligence agency. A number of hotel employees had contacts with overseas intelligence agencies, including one who quit his job a week before the attack, the agency said.
“NDS investigations and findings after the tragic incident reveal that Pakistani intelligence services were involved in planning this heinous attack,” the agency said in a statement. The Taliban’s claim of responsibility “contradicts the ground realities,” it said.
The accusations stoke concerns of increased violence in the mineral-rich nation as Afghans vote to pick President Hamid Karzai’s successor and the U.S. prepares to reduce troop levels. Afghanistan and the U.S. have long accused Pakistan of providing a safe haven for militant groups to conduct cross-border attacks.
Pakistan denied any involvement in the attack in a statement late yesterday. The nation’s foreign ministry said it was “highly disturbing” that it was being implicated in the attack, and said a Pakistani citizen was among those who sustained serious injuries.
“We reject the insinuation,” the ministry said. “The tendency to immediately blame Pakistan is unhelpful and should be discarded.”
Among the dead were an Afghan reporter, his family and four foreigners. The attack was carried out by teenage gunmen in traditional Afghan clothes. The Taliban said they targeted the Serena Hotel, which is near the presidential palace and the foreign ministry, because it served alcohol to guests.
Pakistani leaders have let Taliban-affiliated militant groups like the Haqqani Network operate from their territory “due to their concerns that Pakistan will be left alone to confront an unstable, an unfriendly or an Indian-influenced Afghanistan on its borders” once U.S. troops leave, according to a 2012 U.S. Defense Department report.
Karzai has refused to sign an agreement keeping U.S. troops in the country beyond this year, deterring investors and putting at risk billions of dollars in funds for the aid-reliant economy.
Pakistan has also accused Afghanistan of harboring militants. Last month, Pakistan strongly protested the “brutal murder” of its 23 paramilitary troops, which it said took place in Afghan territory, and urged the Afghan government to take prompt action to apprehend and punish the culprits.
Both countries had agreed to prevent the use of their territory against each other and take action against militants engaged in hostile action, according to a Feb. 20 statement.