MOSCOW -- Five members of a banned militant group were arrested in southern Russia on Saturday and a homemade bomb packed with shrapnel was defused, in another security scare weeks before the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Islamist militants have threatened to attack the games and suicide bombers killed at least 34 people last month in Volgograd, also in southern Russia.
President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his political and personal prestige on the success of the Olympics, has ordered safety measures beefed up nationwide after the attacks.
Russia's National Anti-terrorism Committee (NAC) said the latest arrests were in Nalchik, a town about 190 miles from Sochi in the Caucasus region, where insurgents want to carve out an Islamic state.
"Security forces have detained five members of a banned international terrorist organization," the NAC said in a statement received by Russian news agencies. An NAC spokesman confirmed the statement to Reuters.
"The anti-terrorism operation discovered and seized ammunition, grenades and a homemade explosive device packed with shrapnel ready for use," the statement said.
The weapons were discovered in the course of searching the addresses where the arrests took place, it added.
Nalchik is 100 km from the town of Beslan, the site of a 2004 guerrilla attack on a school which killed 331, half of them children.