Tigray rebels on Sunday recaptured the north Ethiopian town of Lalibela, home to a UNESCO world heritage site, local residents told AFP, 11 days after Ethiopian forces said they had taken it back. The announcement marks another dramatic twist in the 13-month-old conflict that has killed thousands of people and triggered a deep humanitarian crisis in the north of Africa’s second most populous nation. Tigrayan fighters “are in the town centre, there’s no fighting,” said a resident reached by telephone on Sunday afternoon. “They came back. They’re already here,” said another. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group’s military leadership said in a statement shared with pro-TPLF media they had launched “widespread counter-offensives” in numerous locations including along the road linking Gashena and Lalibela. “Our forces first defended and then carried out counter-offensives against the massive force that was attacking the front at Gashena and the surrounding areas to achieve a glorious victory,” it said. Lalilbela, 645 kilometres (400 miles) north of Addis Ababa, is home to 11 medieval monolithic cave churches hewn into the red rock and is a key pilgrimage site for Ethiopian Christians.