TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgian Interior Ministry forces have killed 11 suspected militants in exchanges of gunfire in which three Georgian troops were also killed near the border with Russia, the Georgian Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.
Five other Interior Ministry officers have been wounded during an operation against unidentified gunmen who seized several hostages near the border with Russia's Dagestan region, ministry spokeswoman Salome Makharadze said.
The fighting could increase tension between Russia and pro-Western Georgia, whose relations remain strained after a five-day war in August 2008 over two Moscow-backed separatist regions in Georgia.
The Interior Ministry in the former Soviet republic sent troops to the region in northern Georgia on Tuesday to aid local police in seeking the release of several hostages seized by the gunmen, Makharadze said.
She said an unspecified number of hostages were released and that the Interior Ministry troops exchanged gunfire at least once during the operation, which continued on Wednesday with the troops surrounding six militants in a Caucasus Mountain gorge.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)