HANGU: Twelve persons, including eight children, were killed and eight others injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden double-cabin truck into a local militant’s centre in the Spin Thall area of a remote part of Hangu district bordering North Waziristan tribal region on Saturday. Local sources said the explosion occurred at the entry point of Commander Maulana Nabi Hanafi’s centre located in a populated area. They said the children in the nearby houses and those playing in the street were caught in the explosion and eight of them were killed on the spot. The four other persons killed in the devastating explosion were reported to be local militants loyal to Commander Nabi Hanafi. Two of the children were identified as Abdullah and Junaid. The blast destroyed the centre’s eral nearby houses were badly damaged. Among the eight injured persons were local people who had reportedly come to the centre to seek the commander’s intervention for the settlement of their disputes. Due to the absence of the state’s writ in the area, the people in certain areas approach powerful Taliban commanders to settle their disputes. The names of the dead and wounded could not be confirmed due to the inaccessibility of the site of the blast. The Hakimullah Mahsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, sources in the security forces said the explosives- laden vehicle that hit Nabi Hanafi’s centre had come from North Waziristan. The suicide bomber, who was apparently sent to eliminate Maulana Nabi Hanafi, managed to reach the centre despite strict security. However, Commander Nabi Hanafi remained unhurt in the attack. He later met two Hangu-based journalists who reached there for coverage, but didn’t want to be interviewed. His spokesman, Muhammad Qasim Khurrasani, told the visiting reporters that the attack was an act of terrorism as innocent people and mostly children were killed in it. He said Commander Hanafi was at the centre at the time of the bombing, but was unharmed. Zahid Misri Khan and Muneeb, two journalists based in Hangu, said 35 to 40 houses located near Commander Nabi Hanafi’s centre were destroyed or damaged in the explosion. They described destruction on a wide scale with villagersmourning the dead and doing rescue work on a self-help basis. Dr Mian Saeed Ahmad, Hangu DPO, said according to initial reports, eight people including six children and two local militants were killed in the explosion. He said the dead children included three boys and three girls. “The police used to do patrolling in that area sometime back, but the practice was stopped as it is in the vicinity of North Waziristan and has become insecure,” he added. Local sources said due to internal rifts, various Taliban groups had been fighting with each other in the area for quite some time. Commander Nabi Hanafi has been involved in a blood-feud with other commanders affiliated to the TTP and both sides have been attacking each other in recent years. He is originally from the Orakzai Agency and belongs to the Alikhel tribe. However, he had to move out of Orakzai Agency due to the dominance of his rival TTP commanders and settled in the Spin Thall area. He was considered a pro-government militant commander and was said to be on good terms with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the head of the local Taliban in North Waziristan. Delawar Jan adds: Four persons were killed and seven others injured in a roadside bomb explosion in a remote village of Upper Dir district early Saturday, officials said. The remote-controlled device targeted a pick-up truck carrying passengers from Doog Darra to Sheringal. All the people killed and injured were civilians. A militant group that is led by Maulana Fazlullah claimed responsibility for the attack from Afghanistan, where it is now based. Fazlullah, head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Malakand division, crossed over to Afghanistan after suffering losses in the military operations against his group in Swat and other adjoining districts in 2009. Police officials said the pickup truck was attacked at Shatkas, a village where militants attempted to entrench in 2009, but were flushed out by armed volunteers following a deadly suicide attack in Hayagay Sharqi village. The area, situated deep inside Upper Dir district and away from the Afghanistan border, often comes under attack from Pakistani militants based in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. “Yes, four people were killed in the attack,” said an official of the Sheringal Police Station. He said seven others had sustained injuries and were shifted to the District Headquarters Hospital a major health facility in Upper Dir that is 40 kilometres away from the site of the blast. The dead were identified as: driver Said, Hayatullah, Said Alam and Niamat Gul. All the deceased came from villages in Doog Darra. Some reports suggested that members of the local armed volunteers were targeted. However, officials said none among the dead or injured was an armed volunteer. “We cannot say at the moment that who the militants wanted to target but all those killed in the attack were civilians,” said Ihsanullah Khan, the district police officer of Upper Dir. Police officials said that 15 to 20 kg of explosive was used in the bomb. They said the explosion flung parts of the vehicle several metres away from the site. Muhammad Yar, an injured being treated at the DHQ Hospital, Upper Dir, said he fell unconscious following the blast. “I regained consciousness only at the hospital,” he added. “I fell unconscious for a while.When I recovered I found myself lying among the dead and injured. The wounded were screaming with pain,” said another injured Muhammad Zada. Ihsanullah Khan said police officials and army soldiers had launched a joint search operation in the area to track down the perpetrators of the blast. He said several people had been taken into custody on the basis of suspicion. About securitymeasures, the DPO said proper security arrangements had been put in place in the area. “Army and police patrolling teams visit the area from time to time and the situation is in our control,” he claimed. Khan said investigation into the incident would determine those being targeted and also the attackers and how they managed to reach the area. Sirajuddin Ahmad, a spokesman for the Maulana Fazlullah- led militants in Afghanistan, called media organisations and claimed responsibility for the attack. The group held sway in Swat Valley before being driven out in a major military offensive in 2009. It has now been operating from hideouts in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces and staging attacks on soldiers on the border and their opponents in Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Chitral and Swat.