23 Nov 2018

Family forgive tribe who killed American

10:26 am on 23 November 2018

The family of a US man reportedly killed by arrows fired by members of an endangered tribe in India's Andaman and Nicobar islands have said they forgive those who killed him.

John Allen Chau, 26, was slain on North Sentinel Island, which is home to what is considered the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world.

John Allen Chau's family released a statement saying they forgave those reportedly responsible for his death, and asking for the release of his friends who had been detained. Photo: Instagram / John A Chau

In a statement, they said John Allen Chau "loved God, life, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people".

Seven people who helped him reach North Sentinel island have been arrested.

The Indian authorities say it may take "some days" to recover Mr Chau's body.

A missionary who was in contact with Mr Chau in the last days of his trip says his aim was to bring the gospel to the island's tribesmen.

Outsiders are banned from even approaching the island to protect the people who live there, and their way of life.

Few images exist of the Sentinelese people. In this picture taken in 2004, a man from the tribe aims a bow and arrow at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter as it flies over North Sentinel Island.

Few images exist of the Sentinelese people. In this picture, taken in 2004, a man from the tribe is seen aiming a bow and arrow at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter as it flies over North Sentinel Island. Photo: AFP / Indian Coast Guard / Survival International

The complete isolation of the Sentinelese people means contact with the outside world could put them at risk, as they are likely to have no immunity to even common illnesses such as flu and measles.

Mr Chau's family released a statement on Instagram, saying he had gone to the island of "his own free will".

"We also ask for the release of those friends he had in the Andaman Islands. He ventured out of his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions," the statement said.

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John Allen Chau

A post shared by John Chau (@johnachau) on

On his last visit to the island, Mr Chau had taken a boat with local fishermen towards the remote North Sentinel island. He then ventured alone in a canoe to the beach.

As soon as he set foot on the island, he was attacked with bows and arrows, according to the fishermen.

A murder case has been registered against unknown persons, and seven people, including at least five fishermen, have been arrested for helping Mr Chau reach the island, police say.

The authorities have sent a helicopter and a ship to the area to identify where the incident took place.

"We maintained a distance from the island and have not yet been able to spot the body. It may take some more days and... [reconnaissance] of the area," Dependra Pathak, director-general of police on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told the AFP news agency.

Police are using experts, including Indian anthropologists and tribal welfare and forest officers, to help them tackle the situation.

"We have to take care that we must not disturb them or their habitat by any means. It is a highly sensitive zone and it will take some time," he said.