An American Christian missionary is believed to have been killed by a hail of arrows upon stepping foot on a remote Indian island guarded by tribesmen.
Indian police officials confirmed the death of 27-year-old preacher John Allen Chau after tribespeople on North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal shot his body and left it lying on the beach.
Mr Chau, who came to India on a tourist visa, had used a fishing dinghy to get close to the island, before changing to a canoe 500-700 metres from the island.
North Sentinel island, is forbidden to outsiders, local fishermen told reporters.
Dependra Pathak, Director General of Police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told CNN that the man approached the “prohibited island” with a specific intent on converting the island’s indigenous people to Christianity.
Mr Pathak said when Mr Chau reached the shore of the island on November 16, the tribespeople broke his canoe.
“So he came back to the boat swimming. He did not come back on the 17th,” he said.
His body was later discovered by nearby fishermen.
Visitors are restricted from going closer than five kilometres to North Sentinel Island.
“He (Mr Chau) was attacked by arrows but he continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body,” an official source told the AFP agency.
“They were scared and fled but returned next morning to find his body on the sea shore.”
The Sentinelese are said to be at risk of death if they have contact with outsiders, as they have no immunity to common diseases like flu and measles.
Police officer Vijay Singh said seven fishermen have been arrested for facilitating the American’s visit to North Sentinel Island.
The Sentinelese people live on their own small forested island and are known to resist all contact with outsiders, often attacking anyone who comes near.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of islands at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.
The US consulate in Chennai, the capital of southern Tamil Nadu state, was aware of the reports concerning an American in the islands, but spokeswoman Kathleen Hosie declined to comment further due to privacy considerations.
Police officials said a murder case had been registered against “unknown” tribespeople.
Shiv Viswanathan, a social scientist and a professor at Jindal Global Law School, said the North Sentinel Island was a protected area and not open to tourists.
“The exact population of the tribe is not known, but it is declining. The government has to protect them.”
Poachers are known to fish illegally in the waters around the island, catching turtles and diving for lobsters and sea cucumbers.
Tribespeople killed two Indian fishermen in 2006 when their boat broke loose and drifted onto the shore.