An American man has been killed by members of an endangered tribe on remote North Sentinel Island after allegedly breaking laws prohibiting outsiders from interfering with the reclusive group.
John Allen Chau, 27, is thought to have paid Indian fishermen to transport him to the Andaman island. The Alabaman reportedly kayaked to the shoreline where he was shot by bow and arrow.
His body is yet to be recovered.
Indian law prevents outsiders from interfering with the Sentinelese tribe, who anthropologists estimate number between 50 and 150 members.
The group has violently resisted interference in the past. Two Indian men were killed by members of the tribe in 2006 after illegally fishing in the waters surrounding the island.
Famously, the group shot arrows at a helicopter sent to check on the tribe’s welfare after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
There are also fears that any outside contact with the group, who are thought to have resided on North Sentinel Island for sixty thousand years, could expose them to diseases for which the tribe has no immunity.
Citing sources with knowledge of the incident, India Today reports Chau was linked to a Christian missionary and had planned to share his religion with the tribespeople.
Police say Chau packed a Bible in his kayak, and that before setting foot on the island, he handed the fishermen he hired a note explaining he believed he had been granted strength by God to minister in the most dangerous corners of the Earth.
Seven fisherman have been arrested by Indian authorities for transporting Chau to the island.
The Andaman and Nicobar Police have registered a murder case, but the Indian legal system does not have jurisdiction over the Sentinelese.
“It’s a difficult case for the police,” journalist Subir Bhaumik told the BBC.
“You can’t even arrest the Sentinelese.”
In a statement, the US Consulate confirmed it was aware of a missing American on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but offered no further comment.
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