Muslim member of Myanmar ruling party is shot dead at airport

Ko Ni, legal adviser to Aung San Suu Kyis party, and his taxi driver are killed by unknown gunman in Yangon

A prominent Muslim lawyer and member of Myanmars ruling party has been shot dead along with a taxi driver outside Yangons international airport, officials say.

Ko Ni, a member of Aung San Suu Kyis National League for Democracy, was gunned down as he got into a taxi outside arrivals at around 5pm local time by an unidentified gunman, who also killed the driver.

According to our initial information, Ko Ni and the taxi driver were killed, a security source at the airport said, asking not to be named.

An unknown man shot him in the head while he was hiring a taxi. He was later arrested, the source added.

Zaw Htay, a spokesman at the presidents office, said Ko Ni had just returned from a government delegation trip to Indonesia.

He was shot while he was waiting for a car outside the airport. Ko Ni died on the spot, he said.

Myanmars border regions have simmered for decades with ethnic minority insurgencies, and in recent years Myanmar has witnessed a surge of anti-Muslim sentiment, supported by hardline Buddhist nationalists.

Ko Ni, a long time member of the NLD and legal adviser to the party, often spoke out in favour of religious tolerance and pluralism.

In late 2015 Aung San Suu Kyis NLD party won a landslide election victory, ending decades of military led rule.

But in what analysts widely saw as a sop to Buddhist hardliners, the party fielded no Muslim candidates, despite boasting many prominent Muslim figures in its ranks.

Aung San Suu Kyi has also faced international censure for her failure to criticise an ongoing army crackdown against the Muslim Rohingya minority in western Rakhine state.

Since the launch of the crackdown in October at least 66,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh alleging security forces are carrying out a campaign of rape, torture and mass killings.

The treatment of the Rohingya, a stateless group denied citizenship in Myanmar, has galvanised anger across the Muslim world.

Many among Myanmars Buddhist majority call them Bengalis shorthand for illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

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