Written by Staff Writer
Ethiopia’s government says it has recaptured an ancient landmark on the African continent after a nearly three-week standoff by hundreds of protesters demanding the revival of their ancient religion and more basic services.
The country’s chief of police, Tilahun Mulugeta, said in a televised address on Friday that authorities managed to restore order to the ancient citadel of Lalibela, at the edge of a small speck of land in the Oromia region, after fighting with protesters started on November 9.
The government described the protesters as “terrorists,” saying they had been involved in the killing of several people and burning of more than 30 churches, four hotels and several government buildings, including a police base.
A wave of violence has rattled the region, one of Ethiopia’s most populous and vital for trade and tourism, and one of the most significant cultural and religious sites in the world.
Oromia is Ethiopia’s largest region, and it has seen some of the country’s most painful changes in recent years.
Long an ethnic homeland of the nation’s Christian Amhara people, Oromia was one of the final three regions to secede from the country in 1984, which remains sensitive for some residents.
The battle for Lalibela involves an armed Christian group called the Ogaden National Liberation Front, whose leader blamed his group for the violent clashes and urged supporters to join in the protests.
One government spokesman said that at least 30 armed extremists had been killed, though there were more than 100 members of that group seized by the police and arrested.