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Ethiopia’s military again controls religious town of Lalibela

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The Ethiopian military is again in control of the town of Lalibela, famed for its rock churches, state media reported on Sunday, showing pictures of the deputy prime minister visiting the site.

It was unclear when government forces recaptured the town, which has spiritual significance for millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and has changed hands several times during a conflict with rebellious forces from northern Tigray province.

Tigray troops captured it in August but government forces pushed them back at the beginning of December in an ongoing offensive that has forced the Tigrayans to withdraw hundreds of kilometers.

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Last Sunday, residents reported that the Tigrayans had retaken the town after the military and its allies withdrew.

The year-long conflict between Tigray's leaders and the central government has killed thousands of civilians, drawn in forces from around Ethiopia and spilled into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions after Tigrayan forces invaded them.

It has also forced 400,000 people into famine in Tigray, with more than 9.4 million people across northern Ethiopia now dependent on food aid, according to the United Nations.

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