Intelligence officials and witnesses in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area say an apparent missile strike has killed at least 13 people - several of whom appeared to be foreigners. Similar previous explosions have been attributed to U.S. pilotless drones firing missiles at suspected al-Qaida militants. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad on the apparent strike and how Pakistan's emerging civilian government could affect such operations in the future.

The early morning blast occurred at a residence in Kalosha village in Pakistan's volatile tribal region near the Afghan border. Witnesses described an enormous explosion that rattled windows as far as 10 kilometers away.

Similar to previous explosions that are attributed to covert U.S. missile strikes on al-Qaida targets, Pakistani and American officials said they had no knowledge of the incident.

U.S. forces are officially barred from operating on Pakistani soil, but news media have reported that intelligence officials in both countries acknowledge there is a secret arrangement permitting U.S. missile strikes against al-Qaida targets in the tribal regions.

Last month, an explosion in North Waziristan killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a man considered to be a top aide to Osama bin Laden.

In recent years pro-Taliban militants opposed to the U.S.-backed governments in Islamabad and Kabul have expanded their reach inside Pakistan and been blamed for a string of suicide bombings across the country. But many Pakistanis still oppose U.S. missile strikes in the tribal areas.

Talat Masood is a former Pakistani army general and a defense analyst in Islamabad. He says such operations appear to undermine Pakistan's sovereignty, especially when bystanders are killed.

"So if innocent lives are lost then I think there is a lot of hue and cry and that is very detrimental for the government and the anti-American sentiment then builds up on that," he said.

Some Pakistanis cited President Pervez Musharraf's close cooperation with the United States as one of the reasons they voted for opposition candidates in this month's national elections.

Masood says many people blame Pakistan's continuing violence on the country's role in the U.S.-backed war against terrorism.

"There is a very strong view within Pakistan and even among the military that this has been imposed on us and the conditions in the last five years have deteriorated primarily because we have been associated with the U.S., and we need to rethink this," he said.

Pakistani opposition politicians who swept to victory in the elections campaigned on changing how the country should deal with the worsening militancy.

This week former prime minister, and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, Nawaz Sharif said he told the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan that the way the war on terrorism has been fought has not been in the best interests of either country. He said not every problem is solved by using force - and if Pakistan can solve its problems with India through negotiations, why can't it negotiate with its own people?

Mr. Sharif said the country's new civilian leaders - not the military - should be responsible for shaping this new policy.

U.S. officials have expressed worry that negotiations with militant groups could provide the groups an opportunity to reorganize to stage more attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.