Sri Lanka shuts down war-time propaganda centre

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka said on Monday it was shutting down its propaganda centre which distributed information to the media during the separatist war, four years after the end of the conflict.

"The ministry of defence has decided to disband the centre," spokesman for the president, Mohan Samaranayake, said, without giving a reason or any details.

The Media Centre for National Security was set up in 2006 and released information about the military's final campaign which crushed rebels fighting for a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils in 2009.

More recently, the centre has functioned as the publicity wing of the ministry of defence.

The move comes after Sri Lanka began last month compiling a death toll from the war, after allegations of mass killings of civilians, saying it had "nothing to hide".

The start of the "census" comes after the dispute over the scale of the killings in the final phases of the conflict dominated a Commonwealth summit hosted by Sri Lanka in November.

UN bodies have said as many as 40,000 civilians may have died in the final push - a claim repeatedly rejected by President Mahinda Rajapakse and his mainly ethnic Sinhalese regime.

More than 100,000 people are believed to have been killed during the course of the decades-long war, according to UN figures.

The war ended when Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed in a stronghold in the island's northeast.