Lalibela: Ethiopian government says it has recaptured UN World Heritage Site

“The historic town of Lalibela has been liberated and the TPLF’s occupation cleared,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said in a tweet.

A TPLF spokesman, Getachew Reda, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Lalibela is home to ancient rock-hewn churches and a holy place for millions of Ethiopian Orthodox believers.

Earlier in the day, Abiy’s office said government troops backed by regional forces had recaptured territory from rebel Tigrayan fighters.

People stand next to Saint Mercurius church in Lalibela in March 2019.

The gains reported in Amhara follow news over the weekend that government troops have recaptured the town of Chifra in the Afar region after Abiy left the capital Addis Ababa to fight directly from the front lines.

The army victory at Afar and Amhara would be a blow to the Tigrayan forces, who had threatened to push further south through Amhara and march into the capital, or to advance east and threaten a road connecting landlocked Ethiopia with the main port of the region.

NS age conflict The conflict between the federal government and the leadership of the northern Tigray region has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians, displaced millions from their homes and left more than 9 million people dependent on food aid.

Abiy’s office said Ethiopian troops now control the town of Shewa Robit, 220 kilometers (136 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa, along with eight other towns and villages. It says Mezezo, Molale, Rasa areas have been liberated from TPLF forces.

TPLF spokesman Getachew was unavailable for comment on those claims.

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A resident in the village of Gragne Amba, 25 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of Lalibela, said Tigrayan forces had abandoned it on Tuesday.

“I think they were joking and the TPLF fighters said ‘Many of Abiy’s soldiers are coming,'” she told Reuters. “This morning we saw Amhara’s special forces. They told us they were here for us and they tried to comfort us.”

She said the Amhara force had left in the direction of Lalibela on Wednesday morning, and residents coming from that direction said the Tigrayan force had also left there.

Reuters spoke to two people who originally lived in Lalibela and had fled the fighting. They said relatives called and said Tigrayan forces had left the town. They said that the telephone network in the town was down, but people could still go to the area near the airport where there is a cell phone reception.

Reuters was unable to reach anyone in Lalibela to independently confirm those accounts. Government spokesman Legesse Tulu said he was awaiting information from the military.


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