A Bangladesh court has given police three days to question 12 suspected members of al-Qaida's branch in the Indian subcontinent after their arrests in separate raids this week.

Police can request an extension if they need more time to interrogate them.

A spokesman for the elite anti-crime force Rapid Action Battalion, Maksudul Alam, said the suspects include the alleged head of the group in Bangladesh. He said they were arrested in raids starting Wednesday.

The anti-crime battalion said it seized explosives, bomb-making materials and books on jihad from the suspects.

The group claimed responsibility for the murders of two secular bloggers, including a Bangladeshi-American, who had criticized Islamic fundamentalism.