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Associated Press |
AN American adventurer who kayaked to a remote Indian island populated by a tribe known for shooting at outsiders with bows and arrows has been killed, police said Wednesday. Officials said they were working with anthropologists to recover the body.
John Allen Chau, 26, was identified as the victim by Jeff King, president of Washington, DC–based non–profit International Christian Concern. Chau was not a part of the non–profit, but he said the victim was traveling in a group of adventurers.
Sentinelese people are resistant to outsiders and often attack anyone who comes near, and visits to the island are heavily restricted by the government
Police officer Vijay Singh said the killing apparently occurred Saturday on North Sentinel Island, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Sentinelese people are resistant to outsiders and often attack anyone who comes near, and visits to the island are heavily restricted by the government.
Dependera Pathak, director–general of police on India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, said seven fishermen have been arrested for helping the American reach North Sentinel Island.
Chau was apparently shot and killed by arrows, but the cause of death can’t be confirmed until his body is recovered, Pathak told media.
On the morning of the following day, the waiting fishermen watched from a distance as the tribesmen dragged Chau’s body. They left for Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they broke the news to Chau’s friend, who in turn notified his family
Chau arrived in the area on Oct. 16 and stayed in a hotel while he prepared to travel to the island. It was not his first time in the region: he had visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 2015 and 2016, Pathak said. North Sentinel is in the Andaman Islands at the intersection of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.
Chau organised his visit to the island through a friend who hired seven fishermen for 25000 Indian rupees ($325) to take him there on a boat, which also towed his kayak, Pathak said.
The American went ashore in his kayak on Nov. 15 and sent the boat with the fishermen out to sea to avoid detection, Pathak said. He interacted with some of the tribespeople, offering gifts such as a football and fish. But the tribespeople became angry and shot an arrow at him, hitting a book he was carrying, Pathak said.
After his kayak was damaged, Chau swam back to the fishermen’s boat, which was waiting at a prearranged location.
He spent the night writing about his experiences on pages that he then gave the fishermen, Pathak said. He set out again to meet the tribespeople on Nov. 16.
What happened then isn’t known. But on the morning of the following day, the waiting fishermen watched from a distance as the tribesmen dragged Chau’s body. They left for Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they broke the news to Chau’s friend, who in turn notified his family, Pathak said.
Police charged the seven fishermen with endangering the life of the American by taking him to a prohibited area.
Chau had lived in Oklahoma, where he attended Oral Roberts University, and in south-western Washington state, where he attended Vancouver Christian High School. Phone messages left with some of his relatives were not immediately returned Wednesday.
One of Chau’s friends, Casey Prince, 39, of Cape Town, South Africa, said he met the adventurer about six years ago, when Chau was a manager on the soccer team at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. Chau and others on the team travelled to South Africa to volunteer at a soccer development and social leadership program Prince founded, Ubuntu Football Academy.
Chau’s friends declined to discuss what Chau had told him about his plans for traveling in India or the islands. But they said Chau, who previously spoke of having been bitten by a rattle–snake, accepted the dangers that came with his adventures. “If he was taking a risk, he was very aware of it,” they said.
Kathleen Hosie, spokeswoman for the US Consulate in Chennai, the capital of India’s southern Tamil Nadu state, said she was aware of reports concerning an American in the islands but could not comment further due to privacy considerations.
“The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected,” said in a statement, adding that they could have also been exposed to deadly pathogens that they are not immune to. ■