Travelling as co-passengers, a five-member gang reportedly committed a daring highway robbery onboard a State-Express Transport Corporation bus plying from Chennai to Thanjavur, looting passengers near Ponneri in Ariyalur district in the wee hours of Tuesday.

While one gang member had forced the driver Rajendran (50) to halt the bus at a secluded spot, the rest of the miscreants went about snatching at knife point seven sovereigns of gold jewellery, Rs. 2,500 cash, three mobile phones, and a bag containing ATM cards and academic certificates from three passengers before making good their escape in a waiting car in what looked like a well-planned operation, police sources said, quoting eye witnesses.

According to the Conductor M. Shanmugam (50) who lodged the police complaint, one member of the gang was among the 34 passengers travelling from Chennai and the rest seeking tickets to Thanjavur boarded the bus at Meensurutti.

In view of the works in progress at the Anaikkarai Bridge for some months now, buses bound for Thanjavur skip Kumbakonam and ply via Jayankondam and Keelapazhur. The gang sprung into action after the bus crossed Gangaikondacholapuram, according to passengers.

Ariyalur SP Najmul Hoda rushed to the spot, conducted enquiries, and formed a special team to nab the gang. The bus departed at around 8.30 a.m. after six hours of the robbery occurrence, sources added.