Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the region, said: "One thing is clear, helicopters are not able to carry such bombs."

Body parts still littered the ruins of the three wrecked compounds.

 

Bashir Mehsud, a 70-year-old villager, told the Associated Press news agency: "I swear that innocent people died here."

 

"Homes destroyed"

 

He said: "I saw one American plane. It fired five missiles and went away."

The markings on an unexploded missile shown
to journalists were clearly identifiable
Mehsud said that 15 minutes after the attack, five Pakistani helicopters arrived and started firing at the destroyed homes.

Awaz Khan, whose son and nephew were among the dead, told Reuters: "No foreigner or Afghan was killed in this attack. Only labourers from Mehsud and Salmanzai tribes were killed."

 

Jalindar Khan Kikari, another villager, said: "This attack was basically carried out with five missiles fired by a Predator. The [Pakistan army] helicopters came in later and attacked."

 

Claims denied

 

The Predator, an unmanned aircraft used by the US for reconnaissance missions, is also able to carry and drop bombs.

 

Pakistan's military insists its army helicopters carried out the raid and only al-Qaeda fighters were killed.

 

Responding to villagers' accusations, Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan's military spokesman, said on Friday: "This is wrong. We have already denied it. This is usual that such things are said on such occasions but these are wrong."

 

A day after the raid, about 1,000 supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party marched in protest through Tank, a city about 160km north of the scene, claiming innocents had died in the attack.

 

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, has made his country an ally in the US-led "war on terror", but has come under pressure from the US to halt cross-border attacks by Taliban and al-Qaeda militants from their tribal areas into Afghanistan.