Heavy fighting erupted Wednesday in the historic Ethiopian town of Lalibela between federal government forces and a regional militia, local residents said.
It is not the first time the UNESCO World Heritage site has been caught up in clashes in the Amhara region between the Ethiopia National Defence Force and the armed group known as Fano.
“Fighting began this morning around 8:00, we can still hear gunfighting. It looks like Fano are in control of parts of the city. I can see small groups on the main road,” a Lalibela church deacon told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“The ENDF are still in control of the airport,” he said, adding that the fighting was ongoing and that some civilians had been wounded.
Representatives of the federal government or the spokesman for the armed forces could not be reached for comment or did not immediately respond to messages from AFP.
“Last night Fano approached Lalibela from four directions and fighting started this morning around 8:00,” another resident told AFP.
He said that no fighting had taken place around Lalibela’s rock-hewn mediaeval churches that draw tourists and pilgrims from across Ethiopia and the world.
It is impossible to verify the situation on the ground in Amhara independently as media access to the region is heavily restricted.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government imposed a six-month state of emergency in early August after fighting erupted in Amhara earlier this year, raising concerns about Ethiopia’s stability just months after a peace deal ended a brutal two-year war in neighbouring Tigray.
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