India police watch tribal island after killing of American

Port Blair (India) (AFP) - Indian police reinforcements on Friday took up position near the island where isolated tribal hunters killed an American missionary, though no effort was to be made to recover his body, officials said.

Hampered by restrictions on going to North Sentinel and the hostility of the Sentinelese people, Indian authorities are counting on the expertise of anthropologists and tribal welfare specialists to access the remains of 27-year-old John Allen Chau.

Chau was killed by arrows fired by the Sentinelese hunter-gatherers last week after he illegally went ashore in an apparent attempt to convert the tribe to Christianity.

Indian police have used a helicopter and a ship to get close to the protected island but failed to spot Chau's body or identify the place where he was killed.

"To make the picture better and clearer another police team is being sent to the North Sentinel island waters," Dependra Pathak, Andamans chief of police, told AFP.

- Missionary mystery -

Seven people, including six fishermen, have been arrested for leading Chau to North Sentinel.

Police hope the fishermen can give more clues to the place where he was slain.

"Police have obtained seven days custody for three of the accused," Pathak said.

"They will be interrogated on various aspects of the case including the sequence of events, the sea route followed for the island, the location where the victim landed, the place of incidence and location where Chau was last seen," he added.

Foreigners and Indians are banned from going within five kilometres (three miles) of the island, to protect the Sentinelese, believed to number about 150, from outside disease.

While a murder case has been registered experts have discounted any possibility of action against the tribe for the death.

Indian authorities say Chau paid the fishermen to take him as close to the island as possible and then took his own kayak to North Sentinel.

"It will also be ascertained whether the victim had taken the help of these fishermen or others to venture to the island on an earlier occasion," the police chief said.

Pathak said police will also take a new look at Chau's personal journal, in which he expressed fears that he might be killed.

He said he told the tribe after arriving: "My name is John. I love you and Jesus loves you...Here is some fish!"

Fishermen saw the tribe burying his body on the beach the following day, another missionary wrote in an email to the dead man's mother, according to the Washington Post.

Recovering the body could take days, if it happens at all, as Indian authorities insist they cannot disturb the tribe or their habitat in the highly sensitive zone.

The few photos that exist of the Sentinelese show them all but naked carrying spears, bows and arrows.

The tribe reportedly killed two fishermen whose boat drifted onto the island in 2006. They also fired arrows at a helicopter checking for damage after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

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