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Leading Muslim lawyer U Ko Ni assassinated at Yangon airport

A legal adviser for Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy was shot dead outside the country’s busiest airport on Sunday, in a rare outbreak of what appeared to be political violence in the commercial capital, Yangon.

Police arrested a lone gunman, but a motive was unknown in the killing of 65-year-old Ko Ni, a prominent member of Myanmar’s Muslim minority.

The apparent assassination comes amid heightened tensions in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under pressure over a heavy-handed security operation in an area of the country’s northwest that is populated mostly by Muslims.

A gunman shot the lawyer in front of the main terminal of Yangon International Airport at about 5 p.m., according to San Naing, Ko Ni’s assistant.

Images posted on social media show a man in a pink shirt, shorts and sandals aiming a pistol at the back of Ko Ni’s head as he cradles a toddler. A family member said Ko Ni was holding his grandson when he was killed.

A taxi driver who tried to stop the gunman was also killed, according to Zaw Htay, spokesman for President Htin Kyaw.

“We have detained and are questioning the gunman to find out why he killed him, and who is behind it or paid him to do it,” Zaw Htay told Reuters.

A police official told Reuters the suspect was a 53-year-old Myanmar citizen from the central city of Mandalay.

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