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Polices provide security at the mortuary building of the hospital in north Okalapa township, outskirt of Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Jan.29, 2017. A gunman killed a legal adviser for Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy on Sunday, shooting the lawyer in the head at close range as he walked out of the Yangon airport, the government said. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

A top legal adviser to Myanmar's leader was assassinated at an airport


A top legal adviser for Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy was assassinated Sunday as he walked out of Yangon airport, according to CBS News

U Ko Ni, who was a prominent member of Myanmar's Muslim minority, was shot at point-blank range and rushed to Yangon Hospital where he later died. 

Ko Ni's friend, who witnessed the shooting, told CBS News the lone gunman also shot a taxi driver who tried to prevent him from fleeing the scene. 

“As I stopped my car by the airport, that’s where I saw Ko Ni’s body lying on the walkway outside of the airport and I couldn’t believe that just happened,” Thet Paing Soe told CBS News. 

The suspect was later identified as 52-year-old Kyi Linn from Mandalay. Investigators are still working to determine a motive for the attack. 

Ko Ni was returning from a state-sponsored trip to Indonesia where he took part in a panel discussion about religious violence in Myanmar, CNN reports

Ko Ni's legacy in Myanmar 

Ko Ni was among the country's most prominent Burmese Muslims and was known for criticizing the Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy for not putting Muslim candidates in the election. 

Anti-Muslim sentiments have increased in Myanmar, which is primarily a Buddhist country, in recent years. Since October, more than  65,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced out of the country, CNN reports. 

Because of Ko Ni's history of speaking out against Buddhist nationalism, Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation to determine whether the legal adviser's death can be considered political assassination. 

“His death will send shockwaves across the human rights community in the country and beyond, and the authorities must send a clear message that such violence will not be tolerated and will not go unpunished,” Josef Benedict with Amnesty International said in a statement. 

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