Islamabad, Pakistan (BBN) – The Pakistan’s troops asked civilians to leave the area as security forces advance on a key Taliban stronghold in the troubled Swat valley.

Troops moved into the northwestern towns of Matta and Kanju on Sunday, drawing closer to the Swat Valley’s main town, Mingora, where thousands of insurgents are believed to be based, according to reports.

A new phase in the operations against the Taliban began as troops entered the areas in Swat district, after announcements on FM radio stations and loudspeakers asked local residents to leave the area by noon.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters on Sunday that 1,000 insurgents had been killed in the drive against Taliban in Buner, Dir and Swat districts since the latest offensive began last month.

The numbers have not been independently verified, because the government is banning journalists from areas where fighting is taking place.

Meanwhile, Pakistani troops have killed 25 militants in the last 24 hours, the military said.

BBN/SS/SI/AD-18May09-2:48 am (BST)