Lalibela: Ethiopian government says it has reclaimed the UN World Heritage site
“The historic town of Lalibela has been liberated and has been freed from the TPLF occupation,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said in a tweet.
TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda could not be reached immediately for comment.
Lalibela is home to ancient rock-hewn churches and a holy place for millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
Earlier today, Abiy’s office said government soldiers backed by regional forces had recaptured territory from rebel Tigray fighters.
The gains reported in Amhara follow reports this weekend that government troops recaptured the town of Chifra in the Afar region after Abiy left the capital Addis Ababa to lead the fighting from the lines of. forehead.
The army’s gains in Afar and Amhara would be a blow to the Tigrayan forces, who had threatened either to advance further south through Amhara and march on the capital, or to move east and threaten a road connecting landlocked Ethiopia to the region’s main port.
Abiy’s office said Ethiopian soldiers now controlled the town of Shewa Robit, 220 km (136 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa, and eight other towns and villages. He said the areas of Mezezo, Molale and Rasa have been liberated from TPLF forces.
TPLF spokesperson Getachew was not available to comment on the claims.
A resident of Gragne Amba village, 25 km (15 miles) southwest of Lalibela, said Tigrayan forces left him on Tuesday.
“I thought they were joking and the TPLF fighters said ‘Lots of Abiy soldiers are coming,'” she told Reuters. “This morning we saw Amhara Special Forces. They told us they were there for us and they tried to comfort us.
She said Amhara forces left for Lalibela on Wednesday morning, and residents coming from that direction said Tigray forces had also left.
Reuters spoke to two people who originally lived in Lalibela and fled the fighting. They said relatives called and Tigray forces left the town. The city’s phone network was down, they said, but relatives were able to reach an area near the airport with cellphone reception.
Reuters could not reach anyone in Lalibela to independently confirm these accounts. Government spokesman Legesse Tulu said he was awaiting information from the military.