The seven individuals had at least two things in common – all had been drivers or transport workers and had served a few years behind bars for petty crimes. That is where they came to be baptised in their new profession.
The gang members targeted drivers of long-haul night coaches that had just dropped off their passengers. They took control of the buses by tying up their drivers, helpers and attendants – then roamed around Dhaka all night to pick up passengers.
After mugging the passengers, the robbers, in the morning, would park the bus in the area from where they had stolen it, and disappear.
"Their method was unique as they did not target inter-district buses en route, or hijack the vehicle they would take over," said Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) after busting the gang on Wednesday.
The group's latest target was an AK Travel coach. On 19 December, the bus reached Dhaka around 1:00am from Satkhira. After dropping off the passengers, the coach staff went to dine, parking the vehicle in Shyamoli, Dhaka.
After returning to the bus, the staff members were mugged at knifepoint. The robbers snatched their valuables and tied them up inside the bus.
One of the robbers then started driving the bus inside the city and picking up passengers to rob them. In the morning, they got off the vehicle leaving behind 15 passengers – including a policeman – tied up and blindfolded.
The robbers took away the walkie-talkie set from the policeman.
Subsequently, the coach attendant Abu Hurayra lodged a case with Adabor Police Station.
While investigating the case, DMP Tejgaon Division detectives arrested seven individuals, and said some six to eight others are still on the run.
The arrestees are: Md Fakrul Kabir Shanto, Md Rafiq, Md Riaz, Md Rasel, Md Shahjamal, Harun-or-Rashid, and Md Humayun Kabir. They were apprehended in the Gabtoli, Savar, Mohammadpur, and Mirpur areas on Wednesday night.
Police also recovered ten cell phones, Tk6,000 cash, three knives, three machetes, and walkie-talkie sets from their possession. Police said the robbers also used to impersonate members of law enforcement to steal valuables from people.
Forming a gang behind bars
Anich Uddin Bahadur, additional deputy commissioner of DB police, who led the drive, said those arrested were all drivers by profession and used to work on public transportation. But at different times in the last 10 years, they had been arrested and sent to jail for petty crimes such as theft and snatching.
Inside jail, they organised themselves to switch to their new profession, he added.
The police officer said the gang used to operate in Dhaka and nearby districts.
Shahadat Hossain, additional deputy commissioner of DB Tejgaon Division, said the ringleader Shanto had been doing this for the last eight to ten years. There are at least 15 cases, including for robbery and arms, against him at different police stations.
He said other arrestees Rafiq and Riaz are also wanted in three different arms and robbery cases.
Detectives said they are in hot pursuit of the remaining members of the gang to arrest them.