Indian authorities reported tribal members residing on an Indian Island near the Bay of Bengal allegedly killed an American tourist with bows and arrows Saturday.
The American man, believed to be John Allen Chau, was reportedly killed on North Sentinel Island after several fishermen aided his journey, according to police officer Vijay Singh, The Washington Times reported. Singh declined to give further details and said he and the police force are still investigating the crime.
Chau is thought to be in his late 20s and went to the island — possibly on a missionary visit, as he had his Bible with him — in a kayak, according to The New York Times. One of the fisherman reportedly said Chau left him with a note saying Jesus gave him the strength to visit such forbidden destinations.
Authorities believe he is from Washington State.
Visits to the island are restricted and rare, and the Indian Navy also enforces a buffer zone around the island, according to TheNYT.
“When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts,” U.S. Consulate in Chennai spokeswoman Kathleen Hosie said, according to The Washington Times.
The island is protected land that is not open to tourist visits, according to Jindal Global Law School professor and social scientist Shiv Viswanathan.
“The exact population of the tribe is not known, but it is declining. The government has to protect them,” Viswanathan told The Washington Times.
Police chief Dependra Pathak called the voyage a “misplaced adventure,” adding that “[Chau] certainly knew it was off limits,” TheNYT reported.
Residents on the island are normally opposed to visits from outsiders and often attack those who venture onto their land.
“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,” Survival International director Stephen Corry said in a statement defending the alleged actions of the tribal members, according to The Washington Times.
Corry added that the incident should encourage Indian authorities to take the necessary steps to properly protect the lands of native peoples like the Sentinelese islanders.
“If the Indian authorities had properly enforced the protection of the Sentinelese & their island, this would never have happened,” Survival International also tweeted.
Two Indian fisherman were allegedly killed by tribal members from the North Sentinel Island in 2006, The Washington Times reported.
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