New Delhi: Seven fishermen were arrested on Wednesday after an American national was allegedly killed by people belonging to the protected Sentinelese Tribes in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, even as the US consulate said he was “missing”.
“We are aware of reports concerning a US citizen in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the US Department of State,” a US Consulate spokesperson said.
“When a US citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” the spokesperson said.
A case of culpable homicide has been registered, and the fishermen who facilitated John Allen Chau, 27, visit to the island have been arrested.
According to a report published in a newspaper in Port Blair, Chau had visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands five times earlier too.
He had expressed a desire to meet the Sentinelese Tribe, which is known to resist all contact with outsiders, often firing arrows at anyone who comes near.
“He tried to reach the Sentinel island on November 14 but could not make it. Two days later he went well prepared. He left the dingy midway and took a canoe all by himself to the island,” AFP reports quoting sources.
“He was attacked by arrows but he continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body”, sources said adding, “they were scared and fled but returned next morning to find his body on the sea shore.”
Once they reached Port Blair, the fishermen narrated the incident to a local preacher, Alex, who was a friend of Chau. The local preacher then alerted the victim’s family in the US, who immediately contacted the US embassy in New Delhi for help.
Alex said Chau had been to the Andamans several times in the last few years. The American man was also “a preacher” who apparently told Alex that he was interesting in converting the Sentinelese people, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
While his body had been spotted by fishermen, it has not yet been retrieved, a police official said.
Police officer Vijay Singh said the man was killed on Saturday. He declined to give any other details, saying he was investigating the case, AP reported.
The authorities in the Union Territory have launched helicopter search teams to look for the body. They said the helicopters are unable to land at the island as the Sentinelese are hostile to any attempt at approaching them.
Website Andaman Sheekha, quoting sources, reported that the victim visited Andaman and Nicobar Islands had a strong desire to meet Sentinelese tribes for preaching Christianity.
Till recently, the North Sentinel Island was out of bounds for visitors. In a major step earlier this year, the government excluded this island and 28 others in the Union Territory from the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime till December 31, 2022.
The lifting of RAP meant that foreigners could be allowed to visit these islands without permission from the government.
The North Sentinel island is out of bounds even to the Indian navy in a bid to protect its reclusive inhabitants who number only about 150.
The Andamans are also home to the 400-strong Jarawa tribe who activists say are at threat from outsiders, who often bribe local authorities to spend a day out with them.
(With agency inputs)