Tigray rebels retake Ethiopia's northern town of Lalibela

 Tigray rebels have recaptured the north Ethiopian town of Lalibela, home to a UNESCO world heritage site, 11 days after Ethiopian forces said they had taken it back.

Sunday's development marks another dramatic twist in the 13-month-old conflict that has killed thousands of people and triggered a deep humanitarian crisis in the north of Africa's second most populous nation.

Tigrayan fighters "are in the town centre, there's no fighting," a resident told AFP news agency. 

"They came back. They're already here," said another.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group's military leadership said in a statement shared with pro-TPLF media they had launched "widespread counter-offensives" in numerous locations including along the road linking Gashena and Lalibela.

READ MORE: Tigray rebels blamed for 'mass looting' UN's Ethiopia aid

"Our forces first defended and then carried out counter-offensives against the massive force that was attacking the front at Gashena and the surrounding areas to achieve a glorious victory," it said.

Communications have been cut in the conflict zone and access for journalists is restricted making it difficult to verify the claims.

No immediate comment from government

The government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But in a tweet late on Saturday, Abiy's office said he had "headed to the front again" and forces under his leadership had captured several strategic locations in Afar and Amhara including the towns of Arjo, Fokisa and Boren.

War in northern Ethiopia erupted in November 2020 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army to the northern Tigray region to remove local authorities from the TPLF who challenged his authority and whom he accused of having attacked military bases.

READ MOREEthiopian PM returns from war front after govt forces retake key towns

The rebels recaptured most of Tigray at the end of June, then advanced into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara.

The more than 13 months of conflict have plunged 9.4 million people "into a critical situation of food assistance" in the regions of Tigray, Afar and Amhara, the United Nations says.


Source https://www.trtworld.com/africa/tigray-rebels-retake-ethiopia-s-northern-town-of-lalibela-52561

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