PESHAWAR (AFP) - Heavy clashes reported Monday on the outskirts of a key Taliban stronghold as troops closed in on militants in the Swat valley. The military said security forces had launched the operation to secure the northern Swat town of Charbagh, reporting heavy clashes at Jangle Jerki, on its outskirts, in a bid to isolate and root out Taliban leaders in the mountains. Security forces have encircled Charbagh town where some top Taliban commanders are holed up, a senior military official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. Charbagh lies 20 km north of Mingora and has been described as one of the most important Taliban strongholds in the valley, and witnesses said the assault was creating a fresh exodus. Militants have taken shelter in Charbagh and adjacent areas and the army is moving in. It has created a lot of fear, said Mohammad Ilyas who fled the city to nearby Chakdarra. I can see thousands of people in Chakdarra, hundreds of vehicles are here moving very slowly. A military statement said that 18 suspected militants died in fighting over the last 24 hours, with two soldiers killed in a deadly extremist rocket attack in the lawless tribal area of South Waziristan. A senior defence ministry official, Syed Athar Ali, said Sunday that the offensive could end within days with only five to 10 percent of the job remaining, although the military later distanced itself from the remark. Fears of revenge attacks are also growing with more than 80 people killed in bombings since the operation was launched on April 26. PPI adds: In the ongoing operation Rah-e-Rast launched against militants, 18 miscreants-terrorists were killed while 13 were arrested in various areas of Swat and South Waziristan in the last 24 hours, reported ISPR. Two soldiers embraced shahadat and 4 troops and as many civilians were injured. According to a spokesman of the ISPR, normalcy is returning to Mingora-Charbagh at a fast pace. Food items and medicines are being provided in an organised way. Security forces have launched the operation to secure Charbagh while heavy clashes are taking place to secure Jangle Jerki. Security forces have also started operation to link Kabal with Sirsanai where the forces are facing stiff resistance. In Peochar, security forces are carrying out search and destroy operation. In Dambar Kandao area the army destroyed miscreants training centre. During the operation a 50-60 feet long newly constructed tunnel and a huge cache of arms and ammunition were destroyed while a soldier was injured by miscreants fire. Newly planted IEDs in front of the tunnel were neutralised while 9 miscreants were killed and 6 others injured. In Shangla, in a crossfire between the troops and miscreants at Fatehpur, a miscreant was killed. Security forces have commenced operation towards Shalwa Kandao and occupied the height east of Waliabad and are heading towards Guliabad (north of Charbagh). Three miscreants were killed and 7 others arrested when a miscreants hideout was engaged at Kalagai. Miscreants attacked a checkpost at Ranial and martyred 3 soldiers and injured 4 civilians. In South Waziristan Agency, miscreants fired rockets at troops at Nizh Narai, Khawaja Khidar Fort near Angoor Adda. Resultantly, 2 soldiers embraced shahadat. Regarding relief and support activities by army, the ISPR updated that 5 trucks carrying 25 tons of rations have been dispatched for the stranded people of Khawazakhela and 2 trucks of relief goods have been dispatched for the IDPs at Thana and Chakdara. Meanwhile, the military lifted curfews Monday in seven towns in the Swat Valley in a further sign of confidence that its offensive against the Taliban there is making progress. The order will allow thousands of people caught in the battle zone to leave their homes and search for food and other supplies that have dwindled, often to nothing, in the past month of fighting. The loosening of restrictions posed new dangers for residents, however, with one saying he saw soldiers open fire at civilians in Mingora town as they emerged from hiding places, apparently because they suspected they were Taliban. Army spokesman Maj Gen. Athar Abbas said he was unaware of the incident. The military said in a statement that daytime curfews were lifted Monday in the Swat towns of Bahrain, Madyan, Fatehpur, Khwazakhela, Matta and Alpurai and in the nearby district of Shangla. Most of Mingoras at least 375,000 residents fled the offensive. The military briefly lifted a curfew Sunday, allowing some of the 20,000 or so who remained to buy provisions in the few shops that were open. About 200 families returned to Mingora during Sundays lull in the curfew, but refugees should not go home yet because the security situation was still unstable and the town has no power, said local lawmaker Haji Mohammad Adeel.