ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Military said Tuesday it had killed 21 militants in the past 24 hours of its offensive to crush Taliban extremists in pockets of the northwest, while three soldiers died. In a statement update, the army said: In the last 24 hours, 21 miscreants-terrorists were killed and 18 apprehended in various areas of Swat, whereas three soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom). As most of the conflict zone is cut-off to media and aid groups, there is no way to independently verify military death tolls. The number of civilian deaths in the fierce five-week offensive also remains unknown. Most of the suspected militants were killed on the outskirts of Charbagh, a Taliban stronghold about 20 km from Swats main town Mingora, which the government has said it has already cleared of Taliban. Security forces have successfully secured Alam Gunj, Waliabad and Gulibagh (north of Charbagh). Fourteen miscreants-terrorists were killed and 18 apprehended in Charbagh and Alam Gunj areas, the statement said. One soldier was killed near Charbagh, while the other military and insurgent deaths occurred in other areas of Swat and nearby districts. A senior defence minister said Sunday the military was only days away from defeating the Taliban across the three northwest districts, but the military later distanced itself from those comments, saying there was no timeframe. Authorities have said that more than 1,300 militants and around 85 soldiers have died since the operation was launched at the end of April.