Rebels from Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray region have seized Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The site is located in the neighbouring Amhara region famous for its 12th-century stone churches.
A senior Amhara official said the rebels, known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), were pushing into Amhara territory and hinted at a deterioration of the Tigray crisis as likely retaliation may happen.
The TPLF’s weeks-long push beyond Tigray has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians, drawing criticism from world leaders.
Tigray crisis peaked after a battle last November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to topple the TPLF, the regional ruling party which dominated national politics before he took office in 2018.
The Prime Minister, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps. While Mr Abiy promised victory would be swift, the war has taken a different turn since June when pro-TPLF forces retook the Tigray capital Mekele.
Soldiers and militia fighters have mobilised en masse in parts of Amhara to head off the rebels’ advance, but multiple residents of Lalibela said that the town fell without a fight.
The United States urged the rebels to protect the heritage site with State Department spokesman Ned Price also renewing calls for an end to the violence.
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