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Ethiopia: fighting in the Orthodox holy city of Lalibela

Ethiopia: fighting in the Orthodox holy city of Lalibela
FILES) A truck, carrying grains to Tigray and belonging to the World Food Programme   -  
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Fighting has been going on since Wednesday morning between militiamen and federal forces in the Ethiopian holy city of Lalibela (north), located in the conflict-ridden Amhara region and famous for its rock-hewn churches, according to several residents.

The Amhara Fano "self-defence" militias supported the Ethiopian army during the two-year conflict between it and the rebel authorities of the neighbouring region of Tigray, which ended with an agreement signed in November 2022 in Pretoria.

This agreement, seen as a reversal of alliance, exacerbated tensions in Amhara, which degenerated into open conflict when the federal government tried in April to disarm regional forces.

"The fighting started this morning at around 08:00 (05:00 GMT) and gunfire is still being heard. It seems that the Fano are in control of certain parts of the town, I can see small groups on the main road", a deacon in the town told AFP by telephone, requesting anonymity for security reasons.

It has not been possible to verify these claims independently, as the federal authorities are restricting access to Amhara.

Neither the federal government nor the Ethiopian army responded immediately to messages from AFP.

Another resident contacted by AFP, who wished to remain anonymous, also said that the fighting, which began at around 8.00am, was continuing and that the Fano were visible in the town. He assured us that no fighting had taken place on Wednesday near the rock churches, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A third resident of Lalibela confirmed that the town was the scene of fighting, without giving any further details.

The federal government declared a state of emergency in Amhara in August. The federal army controls the major towns and main roads, but the situation is highly volatile and the Fano are stepping up their attacks in rural areas.

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