November 8, 2023 –Fighting has erupted in the historic Ethiopian town of Lalibela, as government forces and local militia have clashed, residents told the BBC.
Lalibela is home to 13th Century churches that are registered as Unesco world heritage sites.
Fano, a militia in the surrounding Amhara region, has been battling the army since it was ordered to disband.
Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu has disputed reports of violence in the city, according to Reuters news agency.
But witnesses told the BBC that fighting was intense and a plane due to land at the airport on Wednesday morning failed to do so.
The Amhara region around Lalibela has been a battleground between the Fano militia and the military for several months.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government imposed a six-month state of emergency in early August to try to stop the clashes.
This allowed the government to regain control of major towns and cities including Lalibela which had been seized by Fano.
Federal government forces and the militia group were allies in the fight against Tigrayan forces from northern Ethiopia, who launched a rebellion in 2020.
The conflict ended with the signing of a peace accord last year between the federal government and Tigrayan forces.
Tension then arose between Fano and federal authorities when the government attempted to integrate the group into the military.
Forces in Amhara say the federal government’s decision will prevent the region from providing armed resistance to any future threat.
The Ethiopia Human Rights Commission found that 3,000 people have fled their homes since the start of the conflict.