DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber wounded a senior Taliban commander and killed six people on Thursday in a market in a northwestern Pakistani region on the Afghan border, a spokesman for the commander and police said.
Maulvi Nazir Wazir, also known as Mullah Nazir, was wounded in the attack at the main market of Wana, the capital of the South Waziristan region. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack or the extent of Nazir’s wounds.
The blast destroyed Nazir’s vehicle, killed six people and wounded 12, said Maulana Amir Nawaz, a spokesman for Nazir.
“Nazir is a very important commander with the support of his tribe,” said Mansur Khan Mahsud, the director of research at the Islamabad-based FATA Research Centre.
Pakistan’s semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.
The al Qaeda-linked Nazir is an ally of the Afghan Taliban and had signed peace accord with the Pakistani government in 2007. His group has previously clashed with other Taliban fighters during a struggle for leadership.
Tribal elders say that Nazir was more interested in attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan than Pakistan’s security forces, a divisive issue within the Pakistani Taliban leadership.
They said the government had even asked Nazir to help expel fighters who were bent on attacking Pakistani security forces.
Pakistani security officials have at times referred to Nazir as one of several “good Taliban”.
Nazir’s faction was allied with other al Qaeda-linked groups including the faction of commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Haqqani Network and the Pakistani Taliban led by Hakimullah Mehsud.
The issue of whether to fight the Pakistani state is one of many disagreements among the factions that have sown distrust.
Yet despite the rivalries, analysts said the Pakistani Taliban are unlikely to splinter as that would make them an easier target for the powerful Pakistani army.
Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad, Saud Mehsud and Javed Hussein; Writing By Katharine Houreld; Editing by Randy Fabi and Robert Birsel