ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's army destroyed suspected al-Qaida hideouts in an airstrike near the Afghan border on Tuesday, killing 10 people, officials said.
The army and a senior local official said the dead were militants, and included some foreigners, but a resident said the slain men were Afghan laborers.
The raid in South Waziristan came days after the U.S. intelligence chief said leaders of both al-Qaida and Afghanistan's former ruling Taliban militia were finding shelter in Pakistan's lawless frontier areas.
An army statement said intelligence sources confirmed the presence of 25 to 30 foreign terrorists and their local facilitators occupying five compounds in the area of Zamzola - a village about two miles from the frontier.
Pakistani forces backed by helicopter gunships attacked them, destroying three of the compounds.
"We believe most of them were killed," said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan. He said some were foreigners, but "no high-value target was believed to be there."
Ghulam Mohammed, a deputy administrator in South Waziristan, later said 10 militants were killed in the attack and that they included foreigners and local tribesmen. He refused to give any further details.
Anwar Ullah, who lives near Zamzola, told The Associated Press by phone that five helicopters fired missiles, and then opened fire at five homes. He said local tribesmen later retrieved 10 bodies and 10 injured from the rubble. He claimed that the slain men were Afghan laborers who were employed by a local tribal elder to cut wood.
About 600 tribesmen protested in the town of Tank - about 100 miles north of Zamzola - and blocked a main road with burning tires for two hours. They claimed the raid killed three men from their Mahsud tribe and seven Afghan laborers. They chanted slogans against President Bush and Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
The raid took place close to North Waziristan, where the government in September signed a controversial peace deal with tribal elders to halt military operations against militants.
In return, local militants promised they would not provide shelter to foreign militants, target Pakistani security forces or launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
However, the government has not signed any such deal in South Waziristan, where the military has carried out scores of operations against al-Qaida and their local supporters since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
An intelligence official in the area said an unmanned Pakistani spy plane had been used for surveillance of the area before the attack was launched by Cobra helicopter gunships that flew from Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said the suspected al-Qaida hideouts destroyed by the army were located in the thickly forested area of Zamzola.
Pakistan, a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, has deployed about 80,000 troops in its tribal regions, mostly in North and South Waziristan, in an effort to flush out militants. It still faces criticism from Afghan and Western officials that resurgent Taliban fighters are using its soil as a springboard for attacks inside Afghanistan.
Tuesday's operation came as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Afghanistan, and days after U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told a Senate committee that leaders of both al-Qaida and Taliban were finding shelter in Pakistan's lawless frontier areas.
Pakistan rejected the allegation, saying it had done more than any country to break the back of al-Qaida. Pakistan says al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri might be hiding near the border but they have no authentic information on their whereabouts.