The Sri Lankan military says troops have captured a section of rebel-held territory in the country's north as heavy fighting across the region left 38 Tamil Tigers dead.

A military spokesman said Wednesday that soldiers took a one-square kilometer area in northern Mannar province during fighting on Tuesday.  The military says 38 rebels were killed in a series of confrontations, including the Tiger's top leader in eastern Sri Lanka, Shankar.

Military officials say one soldier was killed during the fighting, and five were also wounded.

The casualty figures could not be confirmed.  No immediate comment was available from the rebels.

Tuesday's fighting came hours after a roadside bomb killed a government minister and his bodyguard, near the capital Colombo.  The government blamed Tamil Tiger rebels for the blast.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.