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Myanmar ruling party mourns assassination of Suu Kyi adviser

Mourners carried the coffin of Ko Ni at the Muslim cemetery in Yangon. The prominent lawyer was shot in the head at close range Sunday.
Mourners carried the coffin of Ko Ni at the Muslim cemetery in Yangon. The prominent lawyer was shot in the head at close range Sunday.YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images

YANGON, Myanmar — Thousands of Myanmar politicians, activists, and others shocked by the assassination of a longtime adviser to leader Aung San Suu Kyi gathered Monday at a cemetery for an emotional funeral ceremony, while police investigated the motive for the killing.

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 Sunday. The suspected shooter was apprehended while trying to escape.

A statement issued late Monday by the office of President Htin Kyaw said that according to an initial interrogation, the shooting was intended ‘‘to threaten the country’s stability.’’

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It said the authorities would step up security measures, and urged people not to be frightened and refrain from agitation involving race or religion.

The killing shocked many in Yangon because attacks on prominent people are rare, although security forces are notorious for brutal behavior in remote rural areas, especially when dealing with ethnic minorities.

Ko Ni ‘‘is irreplaceable for both Aung San Suu Kyi and the party,’’ Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy party said in a statement.

He was especially valued as an expert in constitutional law, looking for ways to sidestep provisions placed in the charter by an earlier military junta to retain power at the expense of elected governments.

He was seen as a familiar and helpful figure by journalists and human rights workers who have found Suu Kyi’s government almost as difficult to deal with as the military-backed regime it replaced.

At the same time, Ko Ni was active in defending the rights of Muslims, who often face discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.