• Tuesday, 21 May 2024
Ethiopia war: World heritage site Lalibela back in government hands

Ethiopia war: World heritage site Lalibela back in government hands

The Ethiopian military has regained control of the historic town of Lalibela from Tigrayan rebels.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) said it had decided to withdraw its fighters from all areas in the Amhara and Afar regions.

It added that it took the decision to clear the way for a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the government.

The conflict has caused a massive humanitarian crisis, with international mediation efforts having so far failed.

It is unclear when the military retook Lalibela, but Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen visited the town, in Amhara, on Sunday.

Lalibela, famous for its rock-hewn churches which date back to the the 12th and 13th Centuries, was designated a Unesco world heritage site in 1978.


The town has changed hands several times since August. Its airport has been badly damaged in the fighting.

On Saturday, the government said its troops had retaken several other towns as well, including Weldiya.

The TPLF has been withdrawing its fighters to its stronghold of Tigray after being forced to abandon its plan to advance on the capital Addis Ababa.

It said the withdrawals were part of "essential modifications" that it was making, though it did not confirm that it had pulled out of Lalibela and Weldiya.

Media caption,
Exploring the churches carved from rock

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been to the frontlines to lead the fightback against the TPLF. The group had also been hit by airstrikes.

Thousands of people have been killed, millions have been left homeless and nearly 10 million are in need of food aid.


Fighting broke out over a year ago between government troops and the TPLF following a massive fall-out over political reforms introduced by Mr Abiy when he took office in 2018.

The TPLF had dominated the federal government for more than 25 years, and now controls most of Tigray.


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