Rightist guerrillas derailed a train with a mine explosion, then attacked it, killing at least 22 people and wounding 71 others, the news agency AIM reported Saturday.
About 1,500 people were aboard the train Thursday afternoon when it hit the mine placed by the Mozambique National Resistance, the agency said.
The train was headed east toward Maputo, the capital, when the attack occurred about 25 miles east of Mozambique's border with South Africa, the agency said. Many of the passengers were Mozambicans who had been working in South Africa, AIM added.
Five railroad cars were derailed and a section of the track was destroyed, AIM said. Rebels abducted several passengers, but most managed to escape into the bush, the report said.
In Lisbon, a rebel spokesman said it was highly likely that the ambush was carried out by the rebel group, known as Renamo, but added that he had not yet received confirmation from rebel sources in Mozambique.
"It is a key aim of our military strategy to cut off Maputo as much as possible from the rest of the country," the spokesman told The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
Renamo has been engaged in a 10-year-old hit-and-run insurgency in a bid to overthrow Mozambique's Marxist government.
In South Africa, Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha said the government learned with "deep regret and alarm" of the attack and extended its condolences to relatives of the victims.
"The relevant South African authorities stand ready to render medical assistance as well as to repair the railway line, should this be required," he said in a message to the Mozambican government.
The government has accused the rebels of several attacks on civilian targets in recent months in which more than 900 people have been reported killed. The government said the rebels on Wednesday opened fire on a bus, killing three civilians and wounding 14.
The rebels have not commented on the bus attack, but they have denied responsibility in the other civilian massacres.