South Asia weekly round-up: Feb. 7

NEW DELHI, India – A deadly outbreak of swine flu in India continued, with the death toll passing 200 and reaching the same level by the end of January as the whole of last year.

Health officials have not yet been able to identify why the outbreak has caused so many deaths though it has been noted that the majority of casualties have been in rural areas with limited healthcare facilities.

India's capital Delhi has geared up for state elections that will see the country's governing Bharatiya Janata Party pitted against the populist anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party.

DHAKA, Bangladesh – A week-long nationwide shutdown took Bangladesh to the one-month mark since the beginning of current political instability that has killed at least 70 people since Jan. 5.

A rolling nationwide transport blockade and several nationwide and regional shutdowns have left the country paralyzed and damaged the economy, with estimated daily losses of millions of dollars in just the transport industry.

A petrol bomb attack that killed at least seven passengers on a bus defying the blockade saw opposition leader Khaleda Zia, whose Bangladesh Nationalist Party is enforcing the blockade, named as the "mastermind" behind the attack.

KABUL, Afghanistan – At least seven Afghan police officers were killed when they were shot down and beheaded by two of their colleagues in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the "insider" attack.

Four more officers were killed in another Taliban attack which was suspected to have also involved a police officer.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka celebrated its 67th independence day on Wednesday with the new President Maithripala Sirisena calling for "healing and building sustainable peace and security for all" after the country's decades-long civil war ended in 2009.

"We pledge to protect freedom and democracy, promote amity, cooperation between the diverse communities in this country, and at all times strive to walk the path of peace," he said.

KARACHI, Pakistan – Grenades were hurled at two schools in Pakistan's commercial center Karachi, raising fears in a country still reeling from a Taliban massacre of more than 100 students in December.

A police officer guarding anti-polio vaccinators was killed in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta. It was the third attack on polio vaccinators in less than a month. Attempts to eradicate polio in Pakistan -- one of only three countries where it remains endemic -- are blighted by a de-facto Taliban ban on polio campaigns, which has resulted in the deaths of scores of polio workers.

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