Also detained in the latest hunt was Abdul Awal Mintoo, a leading businessman and former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

 

On Monday, security forces detained three key politicians, including Abdul Jalil, Awami League general secretary, and Lutfuzzaman Babar, Khaleda's former home minister.

   

Officials of the Awami League and Khaleda's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said about half a dozen other politicians, including two city mayors, were picked up on Tuesday.

 

'Reforming politics'

   

The charges against them were not immediately known.

 

Government officials said on Tuesday the arrests were aimed at reforming politics before Bangladesh holds a parliamentary election next year and to make governance easier after the polls.

   

"More arrests are on the cards," said an intelligence official, without elaborating.

   

Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency since the current interim government headed by Fakhruddin Ahmed, the former central bank chief, took office in January.

 

It cancelled an election planned for January 22 and banned all political activity.

   

Fakhruddin has said the next election will be held before the end of 2008, although political parties are pressing for an early vote.