An American national has been killed, allegedly by an endangered tribe in India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Seven fishermen, who illegally ferried the man to North Sentinel island, home to the isolated Sentinelese tribe, have been arrested, police say.
Access to the island is heavily restricted and contact with the tribes is not allowed.
The Sentinelese, numbering fewer than 50 in all, have always attacked those approaching the islands.
Local media have reported that the US national was a missionary who wanted to meet the tribe to preach Christianity to them. He has been identified as John Allen Chau.
“Police said Chau had previously visited the North Sentinel island about four or five times with the help of local fishermen,” senior journalist Subir Bhowmik told BBC Hindi.
“The number of people belonging to the Sentinelese tribe is so low, they don’t even understand how to use money. It’s in fact illegal to have any sort of contact with them.”
In 2017, the Indian government also said taking photographs or making videos of the aboriginal Andaman tribes would be punishable with imprisonment of up to three years.
The AFP news agency quoted a source as saying that Chau had tried and failed to reach the island on 14 November. But then he tried again two days later.
“He was attacked by arrows but he continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body. They were scared and fled,” the report added.
Chau’s body was found on 20 November.
“It’s a difficult case for the police,” says Mr Bhowmik. “You can’t even arrest the Sentinelese.”
Many global organisations like London-based Survival International have been campaigning to save several tribes who may have lived in the Andamans for more than 60,000 years.
The two endangered aboriginal tribes in the Andaman islands – Jarawa and the Sentinelese – are hunter-gatherers, and contact with the outside world would put them at risk of contracting disease.
The Sentinelese are particularly vulnerable: their complete isolation means they are likely to have no immunity to even common illnesses such as flu and measles.
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