Ethiopian military has retaken a world heritage site

Tigrayan rebels have been driven out of the historic town of Lalibela by the Ethiopian military.

The move coincided with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) announcement that it would withdraw from all areas in the Amhara and Afar regions.

According to the TPLF, the decision was made to pave the way for a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the government.

The conflict has resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis, with international mediation efforts so far failing.

Although it is unclear when the military retook Lalibela, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen paid a visit to the Amhara town on Sunday.

Lalibela was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1978 for its rock-hewn churches from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Since August, the town has changed hands several times.

The government announced on Saturday that its troops had retaken several other towns, including Weldiya.

After being forced to abandon its plan to advance on Addis Abeba, the TPLF has been withdrawing its fighters to its stronghold of Tigray.

It stated that the withdrawals were part of “essential modifications,” but it did not confirm that it had left Lalibela and Weldiya.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been to the frontlines to lead the counter-offensive against the TPLF. Airstrikes had also targeted the group.

Thousands of people have been killed, millions have been displaced, and nearly 10 million people require food assistance.

Fighting between government troops and the TPLF erupted more than a year ago as a result of a massive fallout over political reforms implemented by Mr Abiy when he took office in 2018.

For more than 25 years, the TPLF has dominated the federal government and now controls the majority of Tigray.