US tourist ‘killed’ by arrow-shooting Andaman island tribesmen

A US tourist is believed to have been killed by an isolated Indian island tribe known to fire at outsiders with bows and arrows, Indian police said.

Seven fishermen have been arrested for facilitating John Allen Chau’s visit to North Sentinel Island, where the killing apparently occurred, police officer Vijay Singh said.

Visits to the island, which is part of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, are heavily restricted by the government.

The fishermen told the police they last saw Chau being attacked with bows and arrows and then dragged onto the beach till he disappeared from sight, NDTV news channel reported citing police sources.

“The 27-year-old tourist took a canoe from a boat that dropped him near the island. The fishermen who dropped him have been arrested and investigations are on,” police spokesperson Jatin Narwal said.

In a 2015 interview with The Outbound Collective, an online community of adventure travellers, Chau was asked what was on the top of “his must-do adventure list right now”.

“Going back to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India is on the top – there’s so much to see and do there!” Chau replied.

Indian media suggested that Chau had a desire to meet the tribes in order to preach Christianity, and that his body was found by the fishermen. However, Singh said police were in the process of recovering the body.

Authorities in the Union Territory launched helicopter search teams to look for Chau’s body but said the helicopters were unable to land at the island as the Sentinelese were hostile to any attempt at approaching them.

Hostile to outsiders

The Sentinelese people live on their own small, forested island and are known to resist all contact with outsiders, often attacking anyone who comes near.

Taking videos of the Sentinelese people is prohibited. In 2017, the government clarified that the Sentinelese are identified as an “aboriginal tribe” and that videos showing them cannot be uploaded on social media or the internet.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of islands at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. In addition to the protected tribes, the islands also host a large presence of the Indian Navy with sensitive installations.

The US consulate in Chennai, the capital of southern Tamil Nadu state, was aware of the reports concerning a US tourist in the islands, but spokesperson Kathleen Hosie declined to comment further due to privacy considerations.

Shiv Viswanathan, a social scientist and a professor at Jindal Global Law School, said the North Sentinel Island was a protected area and not open to tourists. “The exact population of the tribe is not known, but it is declining. The government has to protect them.”

Poachers are known to fish illegally in the waters around the island, catching turtles and diving for lobsters and sea cucumbers. Tribespeople killed two Indian fishermen in 2006 when their boat broke loose and drifted onto the shore.

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