ORAKZAI AGENCY - At least 17 people were killed and 22 others injured in an attack by Taliban on a pro-government militia commander in Buland Khel areas of Orakzai Agency Thursday morning.

Mullah Nabi Hanfi, who leads an anti-Taliban militia, was wounded in the attack by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) men but survived, security officials said.

It was around 6:20am when a suicide bomber rammed a pick-up vehicle into the compound of Hanfi. This was followed by gun assault by two other attackers who were killed in the shootout by Hanfi’s men, sources in the security forces said.

Apart from the three attackers, 12 men of Hanfi group and two women were killed in the explosions and gun battle. The compound of Hanfi was destroyed while nearby houses were also damaged in the attack.

The dead bodies and injured were recovered from debris and taken to hospitals in Hangu and Peshawar. Injured Hanfi was also taken to a district hospital. The dead included Mustaqim Khan, Jalaludin, Abdul Wahab, Abdullah, Gulo Khan and Hafiz Idrees. Nine of the dead belonged to Tall area, five to Karbogha Sharif while others were from Chapri.

Locals said the blast was so powerful that they surrounding area was jolted and the bang was ear-splitting. They said they saw dense black smoke rising from the site. Soon after the blast, law enforcement agencies rushed to the site and cordoned off the area. A senior security official in Peshawar confirmed the clashes and death toll and said the militants had surrounded the area and would not allow anyone to enter.

Mullah Nabi Hanfi developed differences with TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud and formed his own group in 2009. He lives in the Spin Tal region of Hangu district, bordering North Waziristan, considered a hub of Taliban militants. Since parting ways, both groups have frequently targeted each other. It has been learnt that it was the fifth attacks on Hanfi, who survived a similar attack on his headquarters last year that killed 10 people.

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claimed the attack. “Hanafi was fighting against the TTP and anyone who will fight with us will face the same fate,” Shahid told AFP from an undisclosed location. Orakzai is one of Pakistan’s seven lawless semi-autonomous tribal regions along the Afghan border and is the hometown of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud. The attack comes as Pakistan’s government is mulling peace talks with the Taliban, although no conditions have yet been set, and previous deals with the Taliban have always collapsed.