American believed to have been killed by isolated tribe on Indian island

An American tourist trying to visit a lush, remote island in India has been killed by an island tribe completely cut off from the outside world and known to attack outsiders with bows and arrows, police revealed Wednesday.

Two police officials identified the victim to Reuters as John Allen Chau, 27. They added that he was illegally ferried by fishermen to North Sentinel Island last week, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a group of islands in the Bay of Bengal between India and Burma.

“Adventure awaits. So do leeches,” read the final post on his Instagram account, dated Nov. 2.  On his Facebook profile, Chau described himself as a “soccer coach, traveller, and writer.” He often posted images of his worldwide exploits online, such as hikes in Washington state and prior trips to India.

Two police officials identified the victim to Reuters as John Allen Chau, 27.

Two police officials identified the victim to Reuters as John Allen Chau, 27.

Visitation to North Sentinel Island is heavily restricted by the Indian government and contact with the Sentinelese tribe who lives there is illegal to protect their indigenous way of life and prevent the spread of diseases.

The tribe is amongst the first people to successfully migrate out of Africa and scientists believe they arrived in the region some 60,000 years ago, the BBC reports.

A police source told Reuters that Chau is a preacher who had visited the area in the past and had a strong desire to meet the tribe. The source also claimed Chau expressed interest in preaching to them.


Sources who spoke to AFP said Chau last Wednesday took a boat ride to the island before switching to a canoe to go ashore alone. Once he set foot there, he reportedly was “attacked by arrows but he continued walking.

“The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body,” one source added.

Chau’s body, according to Reuters, has not yet been recovered as of Wednesday, and those who took him to the island are said to have been arrested.

“The investigation in this matter is on,” senior police officer Deepak Yadav said, announcing that seven people have been taken into custody.

It is not the first time someone has been attacked while trying to visit the island.

In 2006, two fishermen whose boat strayed into the waters around the island were killed – and their bodies have never been found, Reuters reports.

An Indian Coast Guard helicopter that had tried to land in the area to find the pair was forced to turn around after coming under fire by arrows, the news agency says.

Two years earlier, an Indian Navy helicopter that flew to the island to check up on its residents in the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami also was met with a greeting of arrows.

“So we knew that they were safe,” one of the pilots told the BBC.

Chau has not been the first person to be attacked in the area of North Sentinel Island.

Chau has not been the first person to be attacked in the area of North Sentinel Island.

The U.S. Consulate in Chennai, in the capital of Tamil Nadu state, said it was aware of reports of Chau’s death but declined to comment further.

Shiv Viswanathan, a social scientist at the Jindal Global Law School, said the island is a protected area and not open to tourists.

“The exact population of the tribe is not known, but it is declining,” Viswanathan said. “The government has to protect them.”

Survival International, an organization that works for the rights of tribal people, said the most recent killing should prompt Indian authorities to continue to protect the lands of the Sentinelese and other Andaman tribes.

“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 survives. So the Sentinelese fear of outsiders is very understandable,” Stephen Corry, the group’s director, said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.