YYANGON, Myanmar — U Ko Ni, a prominent human rights lawyer and a legal adviser to Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was fatally shot at Yangon International Airport on Sunday.
Ko Ni, 65, a Muslim and member of the ruling National League for Democracy, was returning from Indonesia with about 20 other government officials and civic leaders who had traveled there as part of a government-organized trip to discuss democracy and conflict resolution.
He was shot in the head at close range as he was about to leave the airport in his family car, according to witnesses.
"During the shooting, he was holding his grandchild," said U Aung Myint Oo, an airport security guard.
As the gunman tried to flee, he shot and killed a taxi driver, U Ne Win, who had tried to stop him. Other taxi drivers detained the gunman until police arrived and arrested him, seizing two handguns. He was identified by police as U Kyi Lin from Mandalay, Myanmar.
According to taxi drivers who witnessed the attack, the gunman shouted, "You can't act like that," before opening fire.
Police were seen searching the house of Kyi Lyn in a neighborhood of Mandalay.
No motive for the killing has been given. Ko Ni was one of the best-known Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, serving as a legal adviser to the National League for Democracy. He was the author of six books on human rights issues and democratic elections, and was actively involved in the interfaith peace movement.
"It seems the gunman knew the exact time of his arrival and was waiting to shoot him," said a member of the team who traveled with Ko Ni to Indonesia. "I was shocked and scared. It is unsafe here."
A spokesman for the National League for Democracy said from Naypyidaw, Myanmar's capital, that Ko Ni was a key adviser in recent years to Suu Kyi, the former opposition leader turned leader of Myanmar, on constitutional amendments.
"His assassination was a big blow to the National League for Democracy, and it would be very difficult for us to replace him," Win Htein said. "We lost a hero. It is a bad situation here."
Amnesty International, which worked with Ko Ni on human rights issues in Myanmar, called for an independent investigation into his death.