Rhodesian commandos, in a daring escalation of their war against nationalist rebels, raided the Zambian capital of Lusaka under darkness early today and blew up the home of guerrilla leader Joshua Nkomo.
Nkomo escaped the raid, but at least 10 people, most of them his guards, reportedly were killed.
The Rhodesian commandos destroyed two other guerrilla offices in Lusaka. In related raids, other commando teams blew up the ferry linking Zambia and Botswana and kidnaped 14 Nkomo followers from a house in Francistown, Botswana.
Nkomo later addressed delegates of the Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization that was meeting in Lusaka and pledged to continue his war against the "savages" in Rhodesia.
"Our boys did a good job although they were outnumbered," Nkomo said. "They knocked out the teeth from one of the commandos and blew the brain out of another." He then held up teeth and a brain, displaying them to the delegates, who pledged their support of the guerrillas.
The attack in Lusaka, apparently aimed at killing Nkomo or capturing him, represents a major escalation in the seven-year-old war between black Rhodesian rebels and the country's minority white rulers. Observers warned that it could trigger direct Soviet and Cuban involvement in the spreading conflict.
In London, a Foreign Office spokesman predicted a "deep sense of outrage throughout the Commonwealth" at the Rhodesian raid on the capital of a neighboring country. He said the "decision to attack Nkomo personally . . . can only impede the chances of a negotiated settlement."
The raid came as tensions build here in preparation for national elections next week that, for the first time, will give majority control of the government to blacks while keeping key elements in the hands of whites. The Patriotic Front guerrilla organization, with factions headed by Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, has pledged to disrupt the elections.
The fact that the attacks were carried out as a Soviet-sponsored Afro-Asian solidarity conference was being held in Lusaka seems to indicate that the Rhodesian government no longer is terribly concerned about provoking Moscow or Havana into stepping up their assistance to the guerrillas based in Zambia and Mozambique.
There is now intense speculation here that the Rhodesians have received a firm military commitment from South Africa and that the two are preparing to take a much harder stand against the black nationalist movements throughout southern Africa.
It appears increasingly that at the center of the new South African-Rhodesian strategy is a major squeeze on Zambia to force it to stop supporting Nkomo's forces.
According to reports from Lusaka, the Rhodesian commandos struck about 3 a.m. today, apparently after driving the 65 miles from the Rhodesian border to Lusaka in jeeps and Land Rovers.
They drove to Nkomo's house, which is just behind Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda's official residence near the Lusaka Golf Club, and burst into the heavily guarded compounded, firing bazookas and grenades.
Eyewitnesses said most of the Rhodesian commandos were black and Nkomo said that they were disguised as Zambian soldiers, thus briefly confusing his guards.
Nkomo said his house was blown apart by satchel charges set off inside it and he said he slipped out a secret door during the attack. Earlier, however, a spokesman for his organization said Nkomo had spent the night elsewhere as a security measure.
The commandos then struck their other targets, two buildings housing Rhodesian guerrilla offices, and apparently spent more than two hours in Lusaka, before returning to Rhodesia.
Nkomo said three commandos were killed, but there was no other indication of Rhodesian casualties. Hospital sources reported 10 persons, all apparently Nkomo's supporters, were killed and dozens more wounded. The Zambian government said there were casualties but gave no figures.
At dawn today, all that remained of Nkomo's palatial residence were the smoking walls.
Swearing revenge and military defeat of the Salisbury government by the end of this year, Nkomo told a rally of 2,000 Zambians outside the smoldering ruins of his home this afternoon that "the [Rhodesian] regime is going to pay very heavily for what it has done. The Patriotic Front is going to punish those savages."
The Front is the umbrella group of nationalist guerrillas fighting to topple the Rhodesian multiracial government. It consists of Nkomo's group and the Mozambique-based Zimbabwe African National Union led by Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, who was in Lusaka for the solidarity conference, said the attack would only serve to unite the two badly divided wings of the Front.
"Together, we are determined to carry the struggle to the finish," he said.
The Rhodesian government confirmed the Lusaka raid but it gave no details or casualty report.
Nkomo said the Rhodesians had planned to kidnap and take him to Rhodesia, but observers here felt it more likely the Rhodesians would have killed him, hoping this would trigger the disintegration of his guerrilla group.
Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the top black figure in the Rhodesian government, said at a press conference here that he was against a policy of trying to assassinate its opponents.
"I am going to keep my record, whatever happens, of clean hands, of bloodstainless hands," he said. "I would never be part and parcel of that sort of dirty business."
Muzorewa is widely expected to emerge from next week's expected to emerge from next week's elections as the next prime minister here.
The Rhodesian commandos also hit the Zambian-supported Liberation Center, a liaison office between the Azmbian government and the half dozen liberation movements with headquarters or representatives in Lusaka.
The determination with which the Rhodesian government is launching air and ground attacks against Nkomo's guerrillas in Zambia, Angola and Botswana suggests it is now out to knock them completely out of the war. While no official figures are available, it is probable that more than 3,000 of them have been killed or wounded since the raids began last October.
The destruction of the ferry at Kazungula, where Botswana, Zambia and Rhodesia meet, was aimed partly at bottling up the guerrillas in Zambia.
"This ferry has been crossing in disputed waters and is known to have been carrying terrorist war materiel for the Zimbabwe People's Revolutinary Army," a Rhodesian military communique said, referring to Nkomohs guerrilla forces.
Recently, guerrillas trained in Angola and Zambia have been infiltrating Rhodesia via Botswana and it is almost certain the Rhodesians were acting to stop this by sinking the ferry.
But in doing so, they have also cut the only road link between Zambia and Botswana, further isolating landlocked Zambia. If the Chinese-built Tazara railroad to the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam were hit, Zambia would become totally dependent on a rail route through Rhodesia to South African ports.
Once a black-led government led by Muzorewa takes power here, it is expected it will use just such a squeeze to force Zambia to curtail its support for for Nkomo's guerrillas.
Reuter reported from Johnannesburg.
Black Rhodesian troops disguised as Botswanan soldiers reportedly captured 14 people in a house occupied by a Rhodesian nationalist movement in Francistown, Botswana.
A telex message to Reuter from the office of Botswana's President Seretse Khama said the Rhodesian soldiers entered Francistown, 25 miles from the Rhodesian border, in an armored car and two Land Rovers early this morning.
It said they entered a house occupied by members of the Zimbabwe African People's Union, handcuffed seven men and seven women and took them back to Rhodesia. There was no official Rhodesian comment. CAPTION: Map, no caption, By Richard Furno-The Washington Post