Footballer Luis Díaz’s father freed by Colombian guerrillas days after being kidnapped
Colombian-born Liverpool footballer Luis Díaz’s father has been released by the left-wing guerrillas who kidnapped him 13 days ago, police sources and local media say.
Luis Manuel Díaz was handed over to United Nations and Catholic church officials by members of the National Liberation Army (ELN).
He was abducted on 28 October in the family’s hometown, Barrancas.
The footballer’s mother was also seized, but was freed within hours.
Local media said Mr Díaz had travelled by military helicopter to the city of Valledupar, where he would undergo a medical examination before being returned to his family.
They also quoted authorities as saying that he was in a good state of health, with no signs of mistreatment.
According to El Tiempo newspaper, there were tearful scenes in the neighbourhood where the couple lived, with family members taking to their cars to drive through the streets in celebration.
Most of them were dressed in Liverpool team shirts bearing the number 23 and Luis Díaz’s name.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told TNT Sports that the footballer was “really happy”.
“We are delighted by the news of [Luis Díaz’s] father’s safe return and we thank all those involved in securing his release,” the club said on Twitter.
Luis Alfonso Díaz, a cousin of the footballer’s father, told Caracol Radio that it was “emotional” to learn that he had been freed “after so many days of sadness”.
“We feel a great satisfaction, we are glad that it’s come to an end,” he added.
President Gustavo Petro reacted on X, formerly Twitter, with the message: “Long live Freedom and Peace.”
The Colombian Football Federation issued a statement thanking all those responsible for Luis Manuel Díaz’s release, including the government, the military and the police.
It added: “Football is passion in peace. Let no-one ever think of attacking that reality again.”
On the day of the kidnap attack, the couple was accosted by the gunmen as they had stopped at a petrol station in Barrancas, in the northern province of La Guajira.
The kidnappers later abandoned Luis Díaz’s mother, Cilenis Marulanda, in a car as police closed in, but dragged away his father.
Police originally said that a criminal gang was most likely to blame.
But a government delegation – which is currently engaged in peace talks with the rebel group – later said that it had “official knowledge” that the kidnapping had been carried out by “a unit belonging to the ELN”.
The ELN is Colombia’s main remaining active guerrilla group. It has been fighting the state since 1964 and has an estimated 2,500 members.
It is most active in the border region with Venezuela, where Luis Manuel Díaz and his wife live.
The kidnapping caused outrage in Colombia, where Luis Díaz – who is part of Colombia’s national team – is immensely popular.
His Liverpool team has also shown its unwavering support. Díaz scored a goal against Luton Town on Sunday, lifting his shirt to reveal the words in Spanish “freedom for papa”.
“Every second, every minute our anxiety grows,” Díaz, 26, said in a statement released shortly after the match in England’s Premier League.