Probe of Myanmar assassination names army-linked suspect

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A human rights lawyer says a report by Myanmar's government alleging the involvement of a former army officer in the assassination of a top legal adviser to the ruling National League for Democracy party raises new questions about the slaying.

Robert San Aung said Thursday that the failure to explain a motive for the Jan. 29 shooting of Ko Ni had raised suspicion among the public, especially because the new suspect is a former lieutenant colonel, suggesting possible military collusion.

He also questioned how the plotters were able to acquire two pistols for the gunman, when gun ownership by civilians is rare.

Ko Ni had advised the ruling party of Aung San Suu Kyi on how to reduce the army's power in government. Her party's election victory in 2015 ended five decades of military rule.

The report from the office of President Htin Kyaw said the murder plot was launched last July and the gunman was to be paid 80 million kyat ($59,220). Two men, including the alleged shooter, have been arrested.

Both were reported to have confessed, with one naming his brother, former Lt. Col. Aung Win Khaing, as having directed the plot.

Ko Ni, a prominent lawyer and member of Myanmar's Muslim minority, was shot in the head at close range as he walked out of the Yangon airport after returning from a working trip to Indonesia.

Onlookers chased down the gunman, catching him only after he also shot dead a taxi driver who was one of his pursuers. The suspect is an ex-convict who traded in antiquities such as busts of Buddha.

The statement from the president's office urged people "to be fully aware of religious and racial incitements, and attempts to destabilize the situation," an apparent reference to speculation that anti-Muslim prejudice might have contributed to Ko Ni's death.

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