At least three politicians have been killed in less than a week in Mozambique, where peace talks are faltering after fighting erupted between the military and ex-rebel fighters, police said.

Two local members of the ruling Frelimo party were assassinated on Saturday in the town of Mutua by a group of “bandits” from the opposition Renamo, Police Spokesperson Inacio Dina told reporters in Maputo.

“They were kidnapped, held and killed. A third man who was injured managed to flee and confirmed that the bandits said they were from Renamo,” he said, naming the dead pair as Arao Chiguemane and Antonio Macurreia.

Less than 24 hours later Juma Ramos, Renamo’s chief in the provincial assembly in Sofala was shot and killed by two unidentified gunmen in Beira, the country’s second city, some 50 kilometres from the first killings, Dina said.

A fourth man, a former guerrilla and member of the party Luciano Augusto, was killed at his home in Gurue last Thursday.

“Frelimo death squads are responsible” for the killings, Renamo spokesperson Antonio Muchanga said, referring to government militias which target opposition strongholds to eliminate Renamo supporters.

Frelimo and the government have rejected the accusations and in response blame Renamo for attacks gripping the centre of the country.

Renamo, the main opposition and former rebel group in Mozambique’s 1976-1992 civil war, took up arms again in 2013 to contest Frelimo’s grip on power.

On Friday talks between the government and Renamo, underway since May with international mediators, were suspended for two weeks with no sign of real progress.

The peace process has faltered in recent weeks since the killing of one of the Renamo negotiators on Oct 8 and the failure of a meeting between Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama and two mediators in the central Gorongosa mountains, where he has lived in hiding for the last year.

Renamo has refused to accept the results of 2014 elections when it was beaten once more by the ruling Frelimo party — in power since the former Portuguese colony’s independence 40 years ago.

Renamo’s armed wing has in recent years staged a string of deadly attacks in central Mozambique as it fights to make its voice heard and to secure a greater share of power.