PESHAWAR (AFP/Reuters) - The military said 'intense battles had broken out Sunday as it advanced on a key Taliban stronghold in a fierce offensive that has scattered more than a million terrified civilians. Ground forces entered Matta and Kanju towns in the scenic Swat Valley, a bastion of firebrand Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, security officials said. Security forces have surrounded and entered the town(s) of Matta and Kanju to eliminate miscreants-terrorists from the area, the military said in a statement. Security forces, with the help of the local population, will not only clear, secure and hold the area, but will make sure that miscreants-terrorists are chased and killed to avert any possibility of their return. Matta is about 25 kilometres northwest of Swats main town Mingora, where gun-totting Taliban militants have been patrolling the streets in a bloody campaign to extend their control. Kanju town is just two kilometres from Mingoras outskirts, signalling an imminent advance on Mingora itself, where thousands of civilians are believed to be cowering behind locked doors without food, water or medical care. At present intense fire engagements are taking place at the outskirts of Mingora, the statement said. A security official said they had relaxed a curfew and asked residents to leave Matta on Sunday morning. The military statement said that 25 Taliban fighters had been killed in the last 24 hours alone. On Sunday, security officials who did not want to be named said forces were carrying out targeted strikes on Taliban bolt-holes in Swat and Lower Dir. Security forces are targeting militant hideouts and helicopter gunships are hovering in the air, said one security official. Helicopter gunships shelled militants hideouts at Matta town (in Swat), the stronghold of the Taliban, another military official added. The offensive has widespread support among most political parties and members of the public, despite widespread opposition to the governments alliance with the United States in its campaign against militancy. However, support could evaporate if many civilians are killed or if the people displaced are not properly looked after. The military says it has inflicted no civilian casualties as soldiers have been attacking militants in the mountains, not in built-up areas where there are civilians. But it has said it will go after the Taliban in Mingora and other towns. Military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said security forces had moved into the town of Matta, where the Taliban leader in the valley, Fazlullah, was believed to be hiding. Abbas said he had no details of the fighting in Matta. Swat residents said some civilians were still in the town.