India Wary of Odds of Recovering American’s Body From Remote Island

Indian officials are working with anthropologists to determine whether they can recover the body of an American killed while trying to reach an isolated tribe on a remote island.

John Allen Chau, 27, ventured onto the North Sentinel island last week, reportedly on a mission to convert the inhabitants to Christianity, despite warnings by fishermen who took him there. Indian authorities announced Wednesday that Chau had apparently been killed with arrows.

The Sentinelese tribe, believed to have migrated from Africa some 50,000 years ago, guards its isolation so fiercely that experts have gathered very limited knowledge about it.

Police director general Dependra Pathak, of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that are protected by the government of India, said Monday officials had not given up on recovering the body.

But Pathak, who called the tribe a “treasure,” said officials “cannot go and force our way in,” adding that, “At this stage we don’t have any plan to confront our Sentinelese.”

The team is studying the 2006 killing of two fishermen whose boat had drifted onto the island. Their bodies were never recovered by the Indian government.

Fishermen told police that Chau paddled to the shore of the island with gifts and a bible and returned after he was shot at by an arrow.  But he ventured back and later they saw Chau’s body being dragged across a beach and buried in the sand. Pathak called Chau’s actions a “misplaced adventure.”