American ‘adventure tourist’ killed by remote tribe after visiting India’s protected North Sentinel Island

Seven fishermen have been arrested for allegedly helping John Allen Chau reach the island, where tribespeople have been known to target outsiders with bows and arrows

Adam Withnall
Delhi
Wednesday 21 November 2018 10:23
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John Allen Chau: US missionary killed by tribe on North Sentinel Island

An American man who visited a remote Andaman island has been killed by its isolated community of bow-and-arrow wielding hunter-gatherers, Indian police said.

Travel for any purpose to North Sentinel Island is banned, both to protect its inhabitants and because they have been known to attack outsiders in the past.

The American visitor has been identified by news agencies as John Allen Chau, 27, and the US consulate in India’s eastern city of Chennai said it was “aware of reports concerning a US citizen in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands”.

Indian media reports described Mr Chau as an adventure tourist who had visited the Andaman island chain several times in the past. One unnamed police source told Reuters Mr Chau had shown a strong desire to meet the Sentinelese people.

He was ferried to North Sentinel Island by fishermen whose dinghy he chartered, according to police. Vijay Singh, a police official on the island chain, said seven men had been arrested on suspicion of helping Mr Chau.

Mr Chau posted this image to Instagram on 21 October (John Chau/Instagram)

Police are now investigating and a murder case has been opened, officials said. Indian media reported that Mr Chau had been found dead by the fishermen, but Mr Singh said police were still in the process of recovering the body.

He told the Associated Press he believed Mr Chau was killed on Saturday, but declined to comment further while the investigation was still going on.

There were conflicting reports among local media regarding the purpose of Mr Chau’s visit to the island. The Andaman Sheekha newspaper quoted sources saying Mr Chau had been to the Andamans five times in the past and wanted to meet the Sentinelese “to preach Christianity”.

But a profile of John Chau on a website called The Outbound Collective describes him as an “explorer at heart” with “going back to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India” as top of the list for his next “must-do adventure”.

Shiv Visvanathan, a social scientist and a professor at Jindal Global Law School, said North Sentinel Island was a protected area.

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“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 on to the shore.

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