MAPUTO - Armed men on Monday killed six soldiers in a pre-dawn attack on a military weapons depot in central Mozambique, independent television reported.

Socio Television, citing soldiers who witnessed the attack, said it was allegedly carried out by the former rebel group Renamo and that two soldiers were injured at the depot in Savane, on Mozambique's Indian Ocean coast.

It said the gunmen snatched arms and ammunition before fleeing the scene.

Earlier Monday, local district administrator Joao Oliveira told state-run radio that the attack occurred at 4:00 am (0200 GMT) and caused casualties, without elaborating.

Several local media outlets earlier reported five dead and three wounded, quoting hospital sources in the nearby coastal city of Beira where the victims were taken following the attack.

"The dead and wounded came from Muaza, a railway town next to the Sena Line which serves to move coal from Moatize in Tete," the independent Canal de Mozambique newspaper reported.

The attack caused panic among residents.

"There are a lot of soldiers here now, as well as FIR (riot police)," Savane resident Bonifacio Tomacene told AFP. He said the sound of gunfire coming from the army depot lasted at least half an hour.

The modus operandi of the attack bears a strong resemblance to raids carried out by Renamo rebels during Mozambique's civil war on government armouries in order to arm themselves.

When contacted by AFP, Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga said: "I heard about this from journalists phoning me up. I cannot confirm yes or no."

Renamo enjoys strongest support in the central province which has been the flashpoint of violence once this year already.

In March, five policemen died in a shootout with Renamo members, and three civilians were also killed in the aftermath.

The latest attack happened on the day former foes Renamo and Frelimo, which has ruled the country since the end of the 16-year civil war in 1992, resumed acrimonious negotiations in the capital Maputo.

Six previous rounds of talks have failed to yield a breakthrough on any of the major issues on the table, including Renamo's threat to boycott upcoming polls if the election law isn't amended.