US man shot and killed by volley of arrows after approaching island where indigenous people are protected

Eleanor Rose
John Allen Chau ventured to the isolated North Sentinel Island

An American was shot and killed by a volley of arrows from a tribe after apparently ignoring advice to stay away from an island where the indigenous people are protected, officials have said.

The US man, named as 27-year-old John Allen Chau is said to have died in a hail of arrows as he set foot on North Sentinel island, part of the India-controlled Adaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

North Sentinel Island is one of the few places left with no contact with the outside world, and is strictly out of bounds for visitors.

It is home to the Sentinelese tribe, who allegedly fired a hail of arrows at the US national when he set foot ashore.

One of the police sources, who asked to remain anonymous, said Mr Chau was a missionary who had visited the Andaman and Nicobar islands before.

This member of the Sentinelese tribe was photographed firing arrows at a helicopter which was sent to check up on the tribe in the wake of a 2004 tsunami (Survival International)

He is said to have wanted to meet the Sentinelese and preach to them, the source added. It was not immediately possible to trace contact details for Mr Chau's family or a representative for comment.

One police source told reporters that Mr Chau was helped by fishermen in a hired dinghy to get close to the island on November 16, before going the rest of the distance in a canoe.

His body, spotted the following day when the fishermen returned, has not yet been retrieved, the official said. The fishermen who took him there had been arrested, they added.

North Sentinel Island is about 31 miles west of Port Blair, the main town in the island cluster.

In 2006, two fishermen were killed after their boat strayed onto the island. Their bodies were recovered.

An Indian Coast Guard helicopter sent to retrieve the bodies was repelled by a volley of arrows from the community, believed to be the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, which describes itself as the global movement for tribal peoples' rights, said in a statement: " The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected.

"The British colonial occupation of the Andaman Islands decimated the tribes living there, wiping out thousands of tribespeople, and only a fraction of the original population now survive. So the Sentinelese fear of outsiders is very understandable.

"Uncontacted tribes must have their lands properly protected. They’re the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like the flu and measles to which they have no resistance."

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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