Luis Diaz’s father was kidnapped in Colombia last month; special forces had been searching a mountain range that straddles the country’s border with Venezuela; police had offered a £39,000 ($48,000) reward for information
The father of Liverpool’s Luis Diaz has been released by kidnappers after 13 days in captivity
The father of Liverpool’s Luis Diaz has been released by kidnappers, the Colombian Football Federation has confirmed.
Luís Manuel Díaz had spent 13 days in captivity after being snatched by the guerrilla group National Liberation Army, also known as the ELN, at a petrol station in Colombia near the border with Venezuela.
Luis Diaz’s mother was also kidnapped in the incident but she was rescued within hours after police set up roadblocks.
- Diaz starts as Liverpool beaten by Toulouse
The Liverpool forward and Colombia international scored an emotional late equaliser at Luton on Sunday before revealing a message underneath his shirt which read ‘Libertad Para Papa’ (Freedom for Dad).
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Diaz had returned to Colombia ahead of Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest the previous week and missed the Carabao Cup victory at Bournemouth, before informing Jurgen Klopp he would like to be considered available for the trip to Luton. At that point there was an indication negotiations between officials and the radical left-wing rebels had been positive.
Alfonso Diaz, Diaz’s uncle, said: “It has truly been an anxious few days, with very great anxiety. I always had faith in God that this had to happen in the best way. Our family does not deserve an outrage of such magnitude.”
Diaz started for Liverpool in their 3-2 Europa League defeat at Toulouse.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told TNT Sports after the game: “It looks like Lucho (Diaz) is really happy, (giving) thumbs up all the time. It looks very, very good. Timing-wise it couldn’t have been better. If it is now then great.”
Later on Thursday, Diaz was called up to the Colombia squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Paraguay.
What happened to Diaz’s parents?
Image: Diaz celebrated scoring with a message asking for his father's freedom
Luis Manuel Diaz and his wife Cilenis Marulanda were snatched by armed men on motorbikes at a petrol station in the town of Barrancas, in La Guajira, near the border with Venezuela, on Saturday October 28.
She was rescued within hours after police set up roadblocks – but the whereabouts of her husband was unknown.
Otty Patino, who was leading the peace talks, said at the time: “We demand that the ELN releases immediately Mr Luis Manuel Diaz and we say as of now that they are entirely responsible to secure his life and integrity.”
The following Tuesday, the winger begged his father’s captors to release him – as his mother, uncle and other relatives took part in a vigil.
Image: Luis Diaz will start for Liverpool against Toulouse after his father's release
He posted an Instagram story with details of the event and the caption: “Bring your candle to light the light of hope – free him now!”
Special forces were deployed to search for Mr Diaz, with air and land patrols trawling a mountain range that straddles both Colombia and Venezuela – as Colombia’s police director vowed to use every agent to find him.
Officials said they could not rule out the possibility that he has been smuggled over the border – meaning he would be out of reach of Colombian police. A reward worth $48,000 (£39,000) had been offered for information that helps police locate Mr Diaz.
However, on Thursday November 9 he was handed back over to his family. Reports say he was handed over to the UN humanitarian commission, the church and medical personnel in the Serrania del Perija region.
Statement: Colombia FA confirms the release of Luis Diaz’s father
Image: Luis Diaz is all smiles warming up in Toulouse
“The Colombian Football Federation thanks the National Government, the Military Forces and the National Police, as well as all the institutions and officials that made the release of Luís Manuel Díaz, father of our player Luís Díaz, possible,” read a statement released on Thursday.
“Football as a sporting discipline symbolizes talent, dedication, teamwork and the intrinsic values of human beings. In Colombia it must continue to be a benchmark for entertainment, healthy competition, unity and joy.
“Therefore, we insist on the need to maintain this activity, as well as those who are involved in it, in the sporting and administrative part and their families, outside of any scenario other than sports.
“Behind a ball, the dreams and illusions of boys and girls, young people, women, men and adult soccer players, their loved ones and an entire country roll.
“Football is passion in peace. Let no one ever think of attacking that reality again.”
The Colombian president Gustavo Petro added: “long live freedom and peace”.