HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ A black peasant couple and five of their six children, one aged 12 months, were axed to death by Mozambique rebels in a remote northeast village near the countries' border, police said Monday.

The massacre reportedly occurred on Thursday, the same day that 16 white missionaries and children were killed on two farms in the southwestern Matabeleland province.

The peasants were slain in the village of Joromani in the Mudzi district by about 15 armed rebels who crossed about six miles into Zimbabwe from Mozambique, the semi-official Zimbabwe Inter-African News Agency quoted police as saying.

Mozambique National Resistance rebels are fighting to topple that country's Marxist government.

Killed in the Joromani attack were Jim and Agnes Mwanawambane and their five children aged from 1 to 4. A sixth child escaped.

The peasants' deaths raised to 48 the number of Zimbabweans allegedly slain in the past two months in cross-border raids by the rebels, known by the acronym RENAMO.

About 20 civilians have been wounded in attacks, and about 50 have been abducted and marched across the 800-mile frontier by gunmen, officials have said.

In the latest reported raid, the gunmen burned the peasants' mutilated corpses and their possessions before fleeing into the bush.

Only five days earlier, RENAMO guerrillas raided the Jersey Tea Estate school in southeast Zimbabwe and abducted 20 pupils, girls and boys, marching them across the frontier at gunpoint. Survivors said five teen-agers were axed to death on the way and seven were freed only after the rebels hacked an ear off each of them.

The Mozambique rebels have in the past few months mounted a series of border raids into Zimbabwe, killing loval villagers and abducting others in what Home Affairs Minister Enos Nkala calls a desperate attempt to get food and supplies.

Both Zimbabwe and Mozambique claim the resistance is backed by South Africa, a charge denied by Pretoria.

RENAMO leaders in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon last year vowed to wage war against Zimbabwe, Mozambique's staunchest ally in the region, because the Harare government had posted 12,000 troops in Mozambique to protect highways, railroads and an oil pipeline important to landlocked Zimbabwe's economy.

Prime Minister Robert Mugabe has in turn pledged to help rid the neighboring former Portuguese colony, of RENAMO.

Zimbabwe has rushed troops to the frontier to stop the incursions.

The slayings at Mudzi were reported as security forces continued their search in Matabeleland for the killers of the missionaries.

The gunmen, called dissidents by the government, raided New Adam's and Olive Tree farms near the provincial capital of Bulawayo and axed the inhabitants to death over a three hours starting around midnight Wednesday.

Nkala said the attack was evidently revenge for the missionaries ordering squatter families off their lands the week before.

The alleged attackers fought in Zimbabwe's seven-year war for independence but returned to the bush when Mugabe defeated opposition leader Joshua Nkomo in elections.

Zimbabwe claims about 100 such marauders who roam Matabeleland are backed by South Africa, this country's southern neighbor. Pretoria says it wants peace with Zimbabwe.