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Prominent Muslim lawyer assassinated in Myanmar

A legal adviser for Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy and a close aide of Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi has been shot dead outside Yangon's international airport. The motives behind his murder are unclear.

Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was assassinated outside the airport as he got into a taxi on Sunday. The cab driver was also gunned down.

"According to our initial information, Ko Ni and the taxi driver were killed," a security source at the airport told the AFP news agency.

"An unknown man shot him (Ko Ni) in the head while he was hiring a taxi. He was later arrested (by police)," the source added.

Zaw Htay, a spokesman for the president's office, said the lawyer, who was appointed as the Supreme Court advocate for the NLD, had just returned to Myanmar from an official trip to Indonesia.

"He (Ko Ni) was shot while he was waiting for a car outside the airport. Ko Ni died on the spot," Htay told AFP.

There are no reports on possible motives behind the lawyer's murder.

Communal tensions

Myanmar is witnessing a surge in anti-Muslim sentiment. Ko Ni was an outspoken critic of religious intolerance and advocated pluralism in the Buddhist-majority nation.

Ethnic tensions between Buddhists and Muslims have been ongoing in Myanmar's western Rakhine state for decades, but they have turned violent in the past few years.

United Nations - Aung San Suu Kyi (picture-alliance/AP Photo/W. Maye-E)

Suu Kyi has been criticized for not protecting the Rohingya community

On October 9, militant Muslims attacked several border guards on the frontier between Myanmar and Bangladesh, killing nine policemen from Myanmar. Since then, the country's security forces have been targeting what they call terrorists. Rakhine's Rohingya Muslims accuse the military and police of using lethal force and committing torture and rape. About 30,000 Rohingya are believed to have fled to Bangladesh since the security crackdown.

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi has often been criticized by her country's Muslim groups for not protecting the Rohingya community.

Her party won a landslide victory in the 2015 election, ending decades of military rule in the Southeast Asian country.

shs/sms  (AFP, AP)

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