Tigray Insurgents Retake Ethiopian Heritage Town Lalibela
By Staff, Agencies
Tigray insurgents have recaptured the north Ethiopian town of Lalibela, Reuters and AFP news agency have reported, citing local residents, less than two weeks after government forces and their allies took control of the UNESCO World Heritage town.
Tigrayan insurgents “are in the town center, there’s no fighting,” said a resident reached by telephone on Sunday afternoon.
“They came back. They’re already here,” said another, adding that they appeared to have come from the east, in the direction of Waldia.
“The population, most of the people are scared. Some are running away. Most of the people, they already left because there might be a revenge. We expressed our happiness before when the junta left.”
Lalibela is home to 11 medieval rock-cut churches and a site of pilgrimage for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front [TPLF] insurgent 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.
“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.
Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond to requests for comment on the reported recapture of the town.
TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda also did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.
One of the witnesses who spoke to Reuters said that Special Forces from the Amhara region and their fighter allies, both allies of the Ethiopian government, began leaving Lalibela on Saturday night.
“The last batch left this morning. We heard gunshots from a distance last night but the Tigrayan forces recaptured Lalibela without firing guns in the town,” said the witness, a hotel receptionist, by phone.