US tourist killed by tribe on remote island in India

PORT BLAIR (India) • Tribespeople armed with bows and arrows killed an American tourist who illegally ventured to their island home in India's Andaman islands, police said yesterday. Contact with the islands' indigenous people is banned to protect their way of life.

Mr John Chau, 27, was surrounded and killed by tribal fighters, sources said. He had paid local fishermen to take him to North Sentinel Island, which is out of bounds even to the Indian navy in a bid to protect its reclusive inhabitants, who number only about 150.

Mr Chau was hit by a hail of arrows as soon as he set foot on the island, a source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He was attacked by arrows but he continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body," the source said. "They (fishermen) were scared and fled but returned the next morning to find his body on the sea shore."

Police said a murder case had been registered against "unknown tribesmen" and seven people arrested in connection with the death.

Indian media said the fishermen told a preacher in the main town, Port Blair, about the incident and the preacher contacted Mr Chau's family in the United States.

The case has cast a rare spotlight on the indigenous people who live shielded from the outside world to safeguard them from 21st century diseases.

Mr Chau had a tourist visa to enter the Andamans, where there is access to some restricted zones, the sources said. But it is illegal to go within 5km of North Sentinel.

A spokesman for the US consulate in Chennai said it is aware of reports concerning a US citizen in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Andamans are also home to the 400-strong Jarawa tribe. Tourists have previously bribed local officials in a bid to spend time with the tribespeople.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2018, with the headline 'US tourist killed by tribe on remote island in India'. Print Edition | Subscribe