US man killed by tribe after ignoring ban on visiting remote North Sentinel island

An American man who ignored advice to stay away from the remote North Sentinel Island has been killed by its inhabitants 

The people who live there are one of the few tribes completely cut off from the rest of the world and have previously fired at outsiders
The people who live there are one of the few tribes completely cut off from the rest of the world and have previously fired at outsiders

An American man who ignored advice to stay away from an island where the indigenous people are protected has been killed by its inhabitants. 

He is said to have died in hail of arrows as he set foot on North Sentinel island, part of the India-controlled Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

The people who live there are one of the few tribes completely cut off from the rest of the world and have previously fired at outsiders.

Indian police officials confirmed the death and said seven fishermen who allegedly aided last Saturday's visit had been arrested.

The man killed has been identified as 27-year-old John Allen Chau.

One of the police officials speaking anonymously to Reuters said Chau had hired a fishing dinghy to get close to the island, before changing to a canoe.

"He was attacked by arrows but he continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body," an official source told the agency.

"They were scared and fled but returned next morning to find his body on the sea shore."

Tourists are banned from going closer than three miles to North Sentinel Island.

The Sentinelese are said to be at risk of death if they have contact with outsiders as they have no immunity to common diseases like flu and measles.

Estimates as to the number of tribespeople who survive vary from 200 to as low as 40.

The US consulate in Chennai, on the Indian mainland, said it was aware of the reports of the death but a spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Police officials said a murder case had been registered against "unknown" tribespeople.

Two Indian fishermen were killed on the island in 2006 when their boat broke loose and drifted onto the shore.

Poachers are also known to fish illegally in the waters around the island, catching turtles and diving for lobsters and sea cucumbers.

Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, which campaigns on behalf of indigenous people, said, "this is tragedy should never have been allowed to happen.

"The Indian authorities should have been enforcing the protection of the Sentinelese and their island for the safety of both the tribe and outsiders.

"Instead, a few months ago the authorities lifted one of the restrictions that had been protecting the Sentinelese tribe's island from foreign tourists, which sent exactly the wrong message, and may have contributed to this terrible event.

"It's not impossible that the Sentinelese have just been infected by deadly pathogens to which they have no immunity, with the potential to wipe out the entire tribe.

"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."

More in World

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe