Seven fishermen have been arrested for allegedly helping John Allen Chau reach North Sentinel island, where tribespeople have been known to target outsiders with bows and arrows
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 the 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 southern 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 multiple times in the past. One unnamed police source told the Reuters news agency Mr Chau had shown a strong desire to meet the Sentinelese.
He was ferried to the 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 reach North Sentinel.
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 under the name John Chau on a website called The Outbound Collective describes him as a photographer and “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 Viswanathan, a social scientist and a professor at Jindal Global Law School, said North Sentinel island was a protected area.
“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.