MAKHACHKALA, Russia (Reuters) - Four suspected militants, three policemen and three mountain guides were killed in a shootout in Russia's restive North Caucasus province of Dagestan, local police said on Wednesday.
The shootout occurred on Tuesday during a random patrol of a woody and mountainous area some 50 km south of the regional capital Makhachkala.
The guides are helping police to secure the areas adjacent to Makhachkala, where the rough terrain provides hideouts for Islamist insurgents.
Separately, security officers defused a bomb on Wednesday near Khasavyurt, a town some 90 km west of Makhachkala, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee said in a statement.
Mostly Muslim Dagestan is plagued by bombings and shootings that mainly target police, state officials or moderate clerics.
The violence is largely blamed on an Islamist insurgency rooted in post-Soviet separatist wars in Chechnya, a neighboring North Caucasus province where attacks are now less frequent than in Dagestan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has staked his reputation on hosting a safe and successful Winter Olympics in February in Sochi, a city near the North Caucasus. He said last month that security in the region was improving too slowly.
(Writing by Alexei Anishchuk, editing by Jason Bush and Gareth Jones)