Black Nationalist guerrillas of the Patriotic Front killed 39 black civilians in eastern Rhodesia, the military command announced yesterday.
The command also said that government troops had killed 106 guerrillas, the largest number reported to have died in a single government announcement since the war began in 1972.
It was unclear whether all 106 guerrillas had been killed within the previous 24 hours.
But informed sources said that the 39 black civilians were killed about two weeks ago in the troubled Wedza area 80 miles southeast of Salisbury while attending a rally led by workers for the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, one of the three black leaders of the interim government in the controversial internal settlement.
Although the command failed to explain the two-week delay in announcing the deaths of the 39 blacks, government communiques announcing deaths are often delayed several days and command spokesmen are cautious about releasing any details beyond those given in their terse communiques.
The informed sources said that the bodies of the 39 victims, all reportedly clad in Sithole T-shirts, were left by a well-used road for travellers in the tribal reserve to see.
A spokesman for Sithole's political organization was unavailable for comment. Last weekend Patriotic Front guerrillas loyal to Robert Mugabe, who opposes the biracial internal settlement, were reported to have killed 17 of 22 inhabitants of a western Rhodesian village who had recently sworn their allegiance to Sithole.
Sithole and Mugabe are bitter enemies and both claim the leadership of the Zimbabwe National African Union, a nationalist group.
In May, four Sithole workers were shot to death in the same area where the 39 were reported killed.
There were also reports yesterday of shooting in Highfield Township, a black area outside of Salisbury, but military command censors banned publication of any details in the urban incidents.