A group of armed men posing as passengers hijacked a Chattogram-bound bus in Tangail, robbed commuters of cash and belongings, and raped a woman at gunpoint.
The spine-chilling incident took place in the Raktipara area of Tangail's Madhupur upazila off the Dhaka-Tangail Highway during the early hours of Wednesday.
Police arrested Raja Mia – the reported mastermind behind the heinous crime – during a drive in the New Bus Stand area of Tangail city on Thursday morning, Sarkar Md Kaisar, superintendent of Tangail Police, confirmed to The Business Standard.
He said, "Raja Mia, son of Harun ur Rashid of Balla village of Kalihati upazila, is a bus driver himself. A case has been in this regard.
"Efforts are underway to arrest the others involved."
Raja Mia will be presented in court with a seven-day bail plea, said the SP.
The police official also said that during the initial interrogation, Raja Mia admitted to his involvement in the robbery incident as well as disclosed who was involved in the incident.
Two sticks, a pair of scissors and three mobile phone sets stolen from the passengers were recovered from the arrested Raja Mia.
A three-member medical team examined the rape victim and found some signs of rape, said the medical team head Rehena Parveen, assistant professor of the Gynecology Department of Sheikh Hasina Medical College.
"There are signs of struggle. Initially, it is being assumed that the victim was raped. Swab samples have been and sent for further testing," she added.
The rape victim said that the robbers tied the hands, eyes and mouth of all the passengers one by one. They tied up children the same way.
Then after looting everyone they brutally tortured the female passengers. The woman sitting next to the robber was raped four times, she added.
"We could not do anything because our hands, face and eyes were tied," said the woman.
Another passenger, Shilpi Begum of Taragunia village of Daulatpur police station area, said, "I was taking my daughter to Dhaka for treatment. All our hands, mouths and eyes were tied up by robbers who looted us. My husband was stabbed in the hand with a knife. They took Tk30,000 from us."
She also said that other female passengers in the bus were tortured.
The bus of "Eagle Paribahan," with 24-25 passengers on board, was on its way to Chattogram from Kushtia late on Tuesday night when the crime occurred.
A group of robbers boarded the bus around 11pm on Tuesday after it resumed its journey following a stopover at a hotel in Sirajganj district.
And some 5-10 minutes later, four more got into the bus, police said.
"Around 12am on Wednesday when the bus took the busy Dhaka-Tangail Highway in the Natiapara area, the robbers whiffed out guns, hijacked the vehicle and forced the driver to drive towards Madhupur upazila," the SP said.
On a desolate stretch, the armed gang robbed the commuters of cash, jewellery and mobile phones.
"The robbers then blindfolded the passengers and raped the woman commuter on board," the SP said.
The ordeal continued for over three hours till the seven criminals forced them to get off the bus and drove the heavy vehicle towards Raktipara's Jam-e-Mosque, where they abandoned it and fled with the loot, police said.
"The victim woman is being treated at Tangail General Hospital, and her initial medical test showed evidence of rape," the police official added.