- Fishermen said they last saw the man being attacked by tribes
- John Allen Chau, 27, had been to Andamans several times
- The tribes dragged the American man to the beach, the fishermen said
An American man was killed by a protected tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the police said today. Seven fishermen who took 27-year-old John Allen Chau to North Sentinel Island, where the indigenous Sentinelese people live, have been arrested, the police said.
The Sentinelese, whose population in 2011 was estimated at 40, are known to resist contact with the outside world. Activists say the tribes are at threat from outsiders, who often bribe locals to access them.
The fishermen told the police that they last saw the American man facing a flurry of arrows after he landed on the island towards the southern Andamans on November 16. The tribes dragged the American to the beach, they said, adding that moments later as they were sailing away they saw Mr Chau's body half-buried in the sand.
"He tried to reach the Sentinel island on November 14 but could not make it. Two days later he went well prepared. He left the dingy midway and took a canoe all by himself to the island," a source told news agency AFP. "He was attacked by arrows but he continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body. They were scared and fled but returned next morning to find his body on the sea shore," the source said.
Once they reached Port Blair, the fishermen narrated the incident to a local preacher, Alex, who was a friend of Mr Chau. The local preacher then alerted the dead man's family in the US, who immediately contacted the US embassy in New Delhi for help.
The police in the islands arrested the fishermen and questioned the preacher after the US officials informed them of the incident.
The authorities in the Union Territory have launched helicopter search teams to look for the body. They said the helicopters are unable to land at the island as the Sentinelese are hostile to any attempt at approaching them.
Alex said Mr Chau had been to the Andamans several times in the last few years. The American man was also "a preacher" who apparently told Alex that he was interesting in converting the Sentinelese people, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
"We are aware of reports concerning a US citizen in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands," a spokeswoman for the US consulate in Chennai said in an email to news agency Reuters, but declined to provide further details over privacy concerns.
Till recently, the North Sentinel Island was out of bounds for visitors. In a major step earlier this year, the government excluded this island and 28 others in the Union Territory from the Restricted Area Permit or RAP regime till December 31, 2022, news agency Press Trust of India reported. The lifting of RAP means foreigners can go to the island without permission from the government, PTI reported.
The strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands is not only home to the protected tribes, but also has a large presence of the defence forces with sensitive installations.
With inputs from agencies