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23 killed in Taliban attack on Pakistan army post

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Taliban militants wearing suicide vests fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at an army post in northwestern Pakistan in a predawn raid Saturday, killing 23 people, including 10 civilians, officials said.

Twelve attackers also were killed in the assault.

The raid came a day after a suicide bombing at a Shia Muslim mosque elsewhere in the northwest that killed 30 people, police said. The blast at the mosque was the latest in a rising number of sectarian attacks in the country.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. The group has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years and sometimes targets the country's minority Shia.

The Taliban and allied militant groups have stepped up the pace of attacks in Pakistan in recent months, an indication of their strength despite numerous army operations against their strongholds in the northwest.

The raid on the army post in Serai Naurang town of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province began around 3:45 a.m. local time and lasted for several hours, said senior police officer Arif Khan Wazir.

Two security officials said the militants killed 10 civilians, including three women and three children, in a nearby house. In addition to the civilians, nine soldiers; four members of the Frontier Constabulary, a force that polices parts of northwestern Pakistan; and 12 attackers also were killed in the fighting.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack. He said four suicide bombers were involved in the attack.

Ahsan said the attack was in retaliation for the recent deaths of two Taliban commanders in U.S. drone strikes. He accused the Pakistani army of helping with the attacks.

The attack on the mosque Friday took place in Hangu town, also in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The town has experienced previous clashes between the Sunni and Shia communities there.

Six people wounded in the bombing died on Saturday, raising the death toll to 30, said local political official Tahir Zafar Abbasi.

Also Saturday, a bomb exploded during a search of a compound in Ghunda Mela area of Orakzai tribal region, killing an army officer and a soldier and injuring two soldiers, according to a military statement. Orakzai is one of the tribal regions where Pakistan army is carrying out massive operations against Islamist militants.

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