Police in northern Bangladesh have arrested at least seven members of a banned militant Islamist group and seized a large cache of bomb-making materials four days before voters go to the polls for a crucial election.

Police say the men arrested in two separate raids in the Gaibandha district north of Dhaka Thursday are members of the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a group blamed for a series of bomb blasts in 2005 that killed at least 28 people.

Police say they seized enough explosives and grenade casings to make at least 50 grenades.

Authorities say it is not clear whether the explosives are connected with any kind of organized plot to disrupt Monday's parliamentary election. But two other members of the same group were arrested with grenades on Tuesday in southeastern Bangladesh, near a campaign rally for one of the country's top politicians.

The government has boosted security after threats against leaders of both of the largest parties, former prime ministers Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League.

The election scheduled for Monday is supposed to return Bangladesh to democracy after nearly two years of emergency rule by a military-backed interim government. The military intervened in January 2007 to stop months of violence between supporters of the BNP and the Awami League.

The state of emergency was lifted earlier this month ahead of the poll.  The government has deployed thousands of troops around the country to provide security through the election.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.