MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE, JAN. 2 -- At least 22 persons were killed when right-wing guerrillas derailed and plundered a train packed with migrant workers returning from South Africa, the national news agency AIM said today.

It said 71 of the 1,500 passengers aboard were hurt when the train hit a land mine, then was attacked by rebels of the Mozambique National Resistance who had set the ambush.

The train was about 25 miles from the South African border, headed east toward Maputo, when it was blasted off the tracks Thursday afternoon, the agency said.

Five railroad cars were derailed and a section of track was destroyed, AIM said. Guerrillas looted the train and abducted several passengers, but most managed to escape into the bush, the report said.

Rescuers did not arrive for hours and some of the injured were not removed from the wreckage until yesterday, AIM said. It reported that the injured were taken to a hospital in Maputo, where 11 remained in critical condition.

In Lisbon, Portugal, a rebel spokesman said it was highly likely that the ambush was carried out by Renamo, as the rebels are known, but said 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," said the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Mozambique government charges that the rebels receive support from South Africa, an allegation denied by Pretoria.