Attempts by Indian authorities to recover the remains of an American missionary shot dead on a remote island have been thwarted by armed tribesmen.
Police on Sunday moored 400 metres from North Sentinel Island, in the Andaman Islands, where 26-year-old John Allen Chau was killed by a flurry of arrows.
They were forced to almost immediately withdraw their boat upon being greeted by a band of Sentinelese tribesmen armed with bows and arrows who threatened to open fire.
Regional police chief Dependra Pathak told French news agency AFP: “They stared at us and we were looking at them.”
Indian authorities are now struggling to figure out how to retrieve Mr Chau, whose body was reportedly buried by the North Sentinel islanders on the beach shortly after his murder on the morning of November 17.
On Saturday, authorities travelled within 500 metres from the island and they spent several hours studying the behaviour of four or five of the Sentinelese, who were spotted moving in the area.
“We have more or less identified the [burial] site and the area in general,” Mr Pathak said.
Sunday’s visit was the third boat expedition of the week by a team of police and officials from the regional forest department, tribal welfare department and coast guard, Mr Pathak said.
The officials took two of the seven fishermen arrested for helping Mr Chau get close to the island in an effort to determine his route and the circumstances of his death.
Officials typically don’t travel to the North Sentinel area, where people live as their ancestors did thousands of years ago.
The only contacts, occasional “gift giving” visits in which bananas and coconuts were passed by small teams of officials and scholars who remained in the surf, occurred several years ago.
Indian ships monitor the waters around the island, trying to ensure outsiders do not go near the Sentinelese, who have repeatedly made clear they want to be left alone.
In an Instagram post, Mr Chau’s family said it was mourning him as a “beloved son, brother, uncle and best friend to us”. The family also said it forgave his killers.
Mr Chau went to “share the love of Jesus,” said Mary Ho, international executive leader of the US-based All Nations missionary organisation.
All Nations helped train Mr Chau, discussed the risks with him and sent him on the mission, to support him in his “life’s calling”.
“He wanted to have a long-term relationship, and if possible, to be accepted by them and live amongst them,” Ms Ho said.