The Ethiopian Prime Ministers’ office on Wednesday announced the military troops have been successful in recapturing the town of Lalibela, a United Nations World Heritage Site, from Tigrayan rebel forces, reported Reuters.
“The historic town of Lalibela has been liberated,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said in a tweet.
Government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have been locked in conflict for more than a year. The war broke out when Abiy ordered troops to attack the northernmost Tigray region to topple the TPLF, a move he said was in response to rebel attacks on army camps.
The TPLF forces aligned had taken control of the town, in the Amhara region, in early August. Lalibela is famed for its 12th-century rock-hewn churches and a holy site for millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
Last week, the government forces had retaken Chifra town in the Afar region after Abiy headed to the frontline to support the troops.
The military’s gain in Afar and Amhara regions is a big blow to Tigrayan forces, who had threatened to march further southwards through Amhara and on the capital, or head eastwards and threaten a road linking landlocked Ethiopia to the region’s main port.
The year-old conflict has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions to flee their homes, and made more than 9 million people dependent on food aid.
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.
In related news, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said humanitarian flights and convoys to Tigray had resumed, announcing the arrival of 157 trucks in Mekele.
“Humanitarian aid is effectively restarted, probably not as much as we would like. But that is a good signal and the UN flights between Mekele and Addis have been re-established,” he told reporters.