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AP Wire Story

GI Hurt, Aflame, Robbed by Eritrean Bandits

  Washington -- (AP) -- A badly wounded American Army sergeant, his clothes aflame, was robbed by a bandit gang in Eritrea Sunday. Two companions who sought to help him were saber-whipped and robbed, the State Department reported yesterday.
 Despite the wounds and severe burns, Sgt. John A. Cramer of Butler, Pa., survived the assault and now is undergoing treatment at Asmara. His condition was described here yesterday as serious but not critical.
 The State Department press notice, announcing the incident, recalled that within the past year or so there was another incident of bandit attack which resulted in the wounding of an American traveling in Eritrea.
 Press officer Michael J. McDermott said the United States is taking up with Britain, which administers the area, the problem of what can be done about eliminating the bandits. They are know in that East African land as the "Shiftas."
 McDermott said what happened late Sunday afternoon was this:
  Five United States soldiers from a group assigned to a communications center at Asmara had gone on a motorcycle trip to Massawa for the weekend. Returning to Asmara, Eritrea's principal city, Cramer and a companion were in the lead.
 When they were still a considerable distance from Asmara (65 kilometers) the two were fired on by the Shiftas. There were about 15 or 20 persons in the gang.
 Cramer's companion got away to the next village and gave the alarm but the sergeant was shot off his motorcycle with wounds in his left thigh and calf. Gasoline from his machine burst into flame and his clothes caught fire. Examination later disclosed that both of his legs were broken.
 About a minute later, the other three members of the cycling group arrived. One of them escaped the bandit gang and the other two tried to help Cramer. They were whipped with sabers as they sought to beat out the flames.
  As Cramer lay burning in the road he and the two Americans with him were robbed.
 Within about five minutes an automobile carrying other Americans arrived at the scene. The bandits disappeared into the darkness and Cramer was rushed to a doctor.
 McDermott said the British had succeeded in eliminating many of the Shiftas. His comment that the United States is taking the matter up with the British now "to see if something can't be done" about wiping them out altogether suggested that the United States may be ready to join in a campaign against them.