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MAPUTO - Mozambique's main opposition group and former rebel movement Renamo on Thursday accused the police of kidnapping, torturing and executing its members in the conflict-ridden central Sofala province.

Spokesman Fernando Mazanga said that "hideous acts are carried out by the police... who go from house to house" of former Renamo soldiers and "kidnap them in order to torture them to death".

Speaking in the capital Maputo, Mazanga claimed that 16 Renamo members had disappeared after escaping the police. He also said that a demobilised soldier had died at the hands of police last week.

"The PRM (police) arrived at his home, kidnapped him and took him to the bush where he was assassinated," Mazanga said.

Police in Sofala province declined to comment on the accusations.

"I have no knowledge of this. I have no comment," provincial police commander Joaquim Nido told AFP.

Locals living in the town of Muxungue, the epicentre of violent clashes between Renamo and security forces over the past few months, said the disappearance of opposition members is not uncommon.

Clashes are also frequent, Muxungue resident Obete Mukuhu told AFP.

"There are days they (police and soldiers) enter and attack and days they don't," he said.

Tensions have been simmering between Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party, former foes who signed a peace deal in 1992 following 16 years of civil war shortly after independence from Portugal.

Months of negotiations between the government and Renamo ahead of municipal elections in November have failed to yield results.

Renamo, which demands more representation in the armed forces and a cut of revenues from Mozambique's fast-growing coal and gas industries, has vowed to boycott the poll.

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