Dominant Naga insurgent group NSCN-K, headed by Myanmar-based S S Khaplang, is suspected to be involved in the ambush of an army convoy in Manipur where at least 18 soldiers were killed and 11 injured.

Senior Home Ministry officials said NSCN-K, which abrogated its ceasefire pact with the central government in April, has a strong presence in Chandel district of Manipur besides having the kind of heavy fire power which was used in yesterday’s ambush.

According to intelligence inputs, NSCN(K) walked out of the ceasefire agreement with the Centre following instructions of a foreign power.

Ever since NSCN-K abrogated the truce agreement, it has been trying to make its presence felt. Besides being involved in large-scale extortion, the group killed seven Assam Rifles personnel and one Territorial Army jawan in Nagaland’s Mon district on May 3, the officials said.

"We strongly believe that yesterday’s incident was the handiwork of NSCN-K," an official said.

The place where the incident took place is just about 60 km from Indo-Myanmar border and NSCN-K has several camps across the boundary.

Officials said NSCN-K has around 300 cadres, most of whom are Naga from Myanmar. Almost the entire leadership of NSCN-K, including Khaplang, is Myanmarese Naga.

Meanwhile, quoting initial reports from Manipur, Home Ministry officials said that despite intelligence inputs about movements of NSCN-K militants, no precautionary steps were taken to protect the army personnel and the assets.

The Home Ministry is now likely to push for replacement of Assam Rifles by Border Security Force as border guarding force for Indo-Myanmar border.

So far, due to strong opposition from the Army, change of guard has not taken place and Assam Rifles continued to be deployed in the international border.

At present, Assam Rifles has dual responsibility — as the border guarding force as well as handling the anti-insurgency grid in the area.

Around 11 Assam Rifles battalions (roughly 11,000 personnel) are deployed along the Indo-Myanmar border.

"It is a very porous border and there is an urgent need to strengthen it on priority," an official said.