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Ethiopian Government Says It Recaptured UN World Heritage Site

FILE - An Ethiopian Orthodox devotee walks near the rock-hewn church of Saint Mercurius in Lalibela, Ethiopia, March 7, 2019.

Pro-government forces in Ethiopia have recaptured the northern town of Lalibela, a United Nations World Heritage Site, from Tigray forces, according to the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front and forces aligned with the group had seized control of the historic town in northern Ethiopia's Amhara region about four months ago.

The TPLF did not immediately comment on the government's seizure of Lalibela, home to ancient rock-hewn churches and a holy site for millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.

Since the TPLF announced large territorial gains last week as part of an advance on the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the government said it had retaken control of several small towns in the regions of Afar and Amhara, including Lalibela.

The TPLF ruled Ethiopia for three decades. The war began about a year ago with Abiy's deployment of troops to the northern regional state of Tigray in response to the TPLF's seizure of military bases.

The TPLF-led authority administering the Tigray region says it is the Tigray Regional Government. Ethiopian federal authorities say that government was dissolved and that a provisional administration has the mandate in Tigray.

The ensuing conflict has killed thousands of people, displaced several million from their homes and left more than 9 million people dependent on food aid.

Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.