Men suspected of being Army deserters fired automatic weapons and a bazooka against the homes of Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Robert Mugabe and a top minister early yesterday in apparent assassination attempts, government sources said.

A government spokesman said Mugabe and the other official, National Supplies Minister Enos Nkala, were "safe" after the predawn attacks. It was not immediately known whether either was in his home at the time of the gun battles, which occurred about two hours apart.

One of the assailants, who was wearing an Army uniform, was killed, sources here said.

Witnesses said the attackers struck first at Mugabe's home on Chancellor Avenue, firing on Mugabe's guards from a stolen Army truck. The assailants then drove to Nkala's house in the northern Barrowdale suburb and fought a fierce gunbattle with guards that left one of the assailants dead, government sources said.

The attack came several hours after a truck, rifles and an RPG7 rocket-launcher were stolen from the nearby King George VI barracks.

The government has blamed "bandits" for attacks during the past three months during which 25 people were killed and charged that the assailants were former guerrilla followers of opposition leader Joshua Nkomo.