Rhodesia's armed forces launched their third major raid into neighboring Mozambique today, hitting what was described in a military communique as "major terrorist administration base."
Government sources said tonight that initial reports indicated 0 guerillas had been killed and large quantities of war material confiscated.
The brief communique said the raid near the southeast border town of Vila Salazar was a "follow up" operation to track guerrillas who have crossed into Rhodesia in increasing numbers in the past week.
"As a result of information gained, security forces are continuing the follow up," the communique said. Security forces have followed the tracks of several terrorists gangs to the border and in the early hours of this morning one such followup was continued into that country. At 6:15 a.m. security forces with air support attacked a well-established base camp from which terrorists have been operating against Rhodesia."
This is the third time in less than a year that Rhodesia has acknowledged that its forces have led punitive raids into Mozambique. The Mozambique government recently claimed that Rhodesia has violated the border over 150 times.
As in the case of the two acknowledged raids in August and November 1976, it is believed this raid was authorized, at the risk of international condemnation and of disrupting the crrrent delicate Anglo-American peace negotiations, because of the rapidly escalating guerrilla war.
Rhodesian officials have admitted in private that they have little chance of winning the four-year-old war and only hope for a stalemate with the guerrillas - but even that now appears to be increasingly difficult.
The "kill ratio," as it is called here, is now down to about the one security force member for every six guerrillas - a sharp decline from last year's 1 to 15 ratio, indicating a serious deterioration in the military situation.
The declaration of a state of war by Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda earlier this month and the rising tension on the Botswana border - where Rhodesian forces have also crossed recently, allegedly followed a guerrilla gang - have stretched Rhodesian troops dangerously thin.
An increasing number of the tribal trust lands - or African reserves - have become uncontrollable, according to well-informed military sources. Moreover, areas near Salisbury, such as Mtoko about 90 miles away, are considered hostile territory.
One-third of the country's main roads are now supervised by the army, which recommends the use of military convoys even during daylight. It is now common to find families living outside Rhodesia's three urban centers driving in vehicles specially rebuilt to provide protection from mines.
The impact of the recent escalation was reflected today by a young couple near Fort Victoria - a starting point for one of the military convoys - when several fusilades were heard over a 20-minute period.
"Ih that's becoming common," the young businessman explained. "You hear it all the time. You have to train yourself not to become too frightened and make sure you're always armed and ready. Half the time its only farmers practicing."
Today's foray is likely to result in renewed criticism of Rhodesia for violating Mozambique's border.
Several observers and diplomats in Mozambique have expressed concern that Rhodesia's raids offer Mozambique an excuse for inviting outside intervention. It is widely believed that Mozambique's army is unable to protect vital installations, from Rhodesian assaults. There have been increasing reports from Moputu, the Mozambique capital, that the government is considering offers of military aid.
So far there has been no comment from Mozambique on today's raid.