Police square off with tribesmen in search for slain US missionary’s body

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Indian police have begun the dangerous mission of trying to recover the body of a Washington state missionary who was killed by tribesmen — but it remains unclear if they’ll ever make it onto the remote island.

A police boat squared off with the Sentinelese tribesmen of North Sentinel island, a part of the Andaman and Nicobar island chain, on Saturday but retreated to avoid confrontation.

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American killed by primitive tribe in India was there to preach
American killed by primitive tribe in India was there to preach
It was just one of repeated attempts police have recently made to access the tiny island, which is protected by the Indian government and cut off from the modern world.

The tribesmen have made it clear they want to be left alone and are known for their violent attacks on outsiders who try to encroach.

Police said they’re doing their best to remain respectful of North Sentinel’s indigenous people, who scholars believe are descendants of Africans who migrated to the area about 50,000 years ago. The islanders have no immunity to outside diseases — meaning their entire population could easily be wiped out.

“They are a treasure,” said Dependera Pathak, director-general of police on the Andaman and Nicobar island groups. “We cannot go and force our way in. We don’t want to harm them.”

John Allen Chau, a Christian missionary, is believed to have been shot and killed with arrows as he approached the tribesmen on Nov. 17. Fishermen who helped the doomed 26-year-old said they saw the Sentinelese drag Chau’s body and bury it on the beach.

In journal entries prior to his death, Chau said he wanted to spread Christianity to the islanders. Seven people have been arrested for helping Chau make the perilous jaunt and authorities have since been struggling to recover his body.

On Friday and Saturday, a boat carrying police and two of the fishermen approached the island and watched the Sentinelese through binoculars. On Saturday, the tribesmen were armed with spears and bows and arrows but they didn’t attempt to shoot them, Pathak said.

“We watched them from a distance and they watched us from a distance,” he said.

Officials are also studying the 2006 killing of fishermen whose boat drifted onto the island. The bodies, which were never recovered, were buried on the beach but then dug up a few days later and propped upright.

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