Pakistan has said it is "highly disturbing" to see what is said were attempts by Afghanistan to implicate it in last week's attack on a Kabul hotel in which nine civilians were shot dead by armed men.

In a statement released on Monday, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), the country's main intelligence agency, directly blamed Islamabad for the attack.

"NDS investigations and findings after the tragic incident reveal that Pakistani intelligence services were involved in planning this heinous attack," the statement said.

Following the statement, Tasnim Aslam, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokeswoman, said: "It is highly disturbing that attempts are being made to somehow implicate Pakistan in this terrorist incident. We reject the insinuation.

"The tendency to immediately blame Pakistan is unhelpful and should be discarded." 

Aslam said Pakistan has already condemned the attack, which she said had claimed many innocent lives.

"A Pakistani national has also sustained serious injuries and remains under treatment," she added.

Afghanistan's National Security Council (NSC), which is chaired by President Hamid Karzai, also said the attack was the work of "foreign intelligence services" - a phrase normally meant to mean neighbouring Pakistan.

"Witness testimony and preliminary information analysis shows that this terrorist attack was directly executed or carried out by foreign intelligence services outside the country," the council said in a statement.

The NSC also alleged that a Pakistani diplomat was seen scoping out of corridors of the Serena hotel ahead of Thursday night raid which was carried out by four teenagers and claimed by the Taliban,

"Another information of the NDS shows that earlier when one Pakistani diplomat entered the Kabul-Serena hotel to use its sport club, he filmed the corridors of the hotel which the hotel staff raised objections to," it added.

Similar allegation

Afghanistan made a similar allegation following a deadly restaurant bombing in Kabul in January that killed 21 people including 13 foreigners, the AFP news agency reported.

Pakistan was the main supporter of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and Afghan officials have long voiced suspicions about connections between the group and Islamabad's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The latest accusation could damage relations with Pakistan, which is battling its own homegrown Taliban insurgency and is seen as crucial to encouraging the Afghan Taliban to open talks.

Many Afghan Taliban leaders seek shelter in Pakistan and the ISI is accused of maintaining  ties to the fighters to ensure future influence in Afghanistan after US-led NATO troops withdraw this year.

Source: Agencies