PESHAWAR, Pakistan: A suicide bomber on Thursday wounded a prominent Pakistani warlord who sends men to fight US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, killing at least five people and wounding 10 others, officials said.
Mullah Nazir, is an elder in the Wazir tribe and the main militant commander in South Waziristan, part of Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt considered a base for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamist militants.
He and North Waziristan commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur confine their militant activities to Afghanistan, where they oppose the presence of US and NATO troops.
They are understood to be close to the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban blamed for some of the most high-profile attacks in Afghanistan.
Nazir's fighters have been targeted and killed by US drone strikes but he reached a peace deal with Islamabad in 2007 and is said to have testy relations with the Pakistani Taliban, who have been waging a domestic insurgency since 2007.
Details of the attack were sketchy as militants quickly sealed off the scene in the main market of Wana, the capital of South Waziristan.
After the bomb detonated, shooting also broke out, although between whom was unclear, the Pakistani officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.
One official said five people were killed and 11 wounded, including Nazir. Accounts differed over the gravity of his injuries, but most concurred he was not in danger.
"Nazir survived because he had already got out of the car," the official told AFP.
Amir Nawaz, a spokesman for Nazir, put the death toll at six, including one of the warlord's drivers and another associate, and said eight people were wounded.
Nazir received only minor shrapnel injuries, Nawaz said. He estimated that the bomber was aged between 12 and 15, and had been carrying a wheelbarrow.
A security official had told AFP the bomber rammed a motorcycle into Nazir's car.
Witnesses said the blast damaged shops and shattered windows in a dozen vehicles.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible, but militancy expert Rahimullah Yusufzai told AFP that Nazir had a long list of enemies and warned that Thursday's attack could spark a new wave of bloodshed.
Nazir opposes Uzbek fighters and has had awkward relations with Pakistan's umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) faction, which is dominated by members of the rival Mehsud tribe.
He has survived attempts on his life in the past and has been an enemy of Uzbek fighters since curbing in 2007 the Uzbek uprising spearheaded by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in South Waziristan, Yusufzai said.
"It is difficult to say who could be behind the latest attack because Mullah Nazir has problems with Uzbeks, IMU and the TTP. Nazir's men have also been firing rockets on Pakistan army positions in South Waziristan," he added.
"The enmity with the TTP will rise further if Nazir's group finds TTP's involvement in the attack," Yusufzai said.
Saifullah Mahsud, executive director of the FATA Research Center, a think-tank focused on the tribal belt, said Nazir and Gul Bahadur are very close to the Haqqani network.
Nazir has never been a member of the TTP but has had "on and off" alliances with the umbrella Pakistani Taliban faction, Mahsud said.
In April 2007, Nazir gave a rare press conference in Wana at which he said he had never met Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda terror chief shot dead by US troops in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in 2011, but would protect him if asked.
Shortly before the press conference, he had been congratulated by the government for expelling Uzbek and other foreign, Al-Qaeda-linked militants from South Waziristan.