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Taliban militants attacked a Pakistani air force base possibly linked to the country’s nuclear program and fought a fierce, two-hour battle Thursday.One security official and nine insurgents  were left dead ,Star.com reports

Hours later in northern Pakistan, gunmen forced 20 Shiite Muslims off buses, lined them up and killed them.

The separate incidents emphasize two daunting challenges the nuclear-armed country faces. The Pakistani Taliban continue to pose a potent threat despite numerous military offensives against their sanctuaries along the Afghan border. At the same time, sectarian violence plagues the Sunni majority country where Shiite Muslims often feel under attack.

While the Pakistani Taliban have carried out hundreds of bombings and other attacks through the country, raids against military bases are somewhat uncommon. The group’s spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, said they carried out Thursday’s pre-dawn attack as revenge for the death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike in 2009 and the American commando raid that killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden last year.

The large air base, located only about 40 kilometres northwest of Islamabad, hosts a variety of fighter jets, including F-16s, and contains a factory that makes aircraft and other weapons systems.