Colombia’s government announced Thursday that the father of Liverpool striker Luis Diaz was released, 12 days after his kidnapping in northern Colombia by members of the guerrilla group National Liberation Army, or ELN.
The release was announced by the government’s delegation that currently is in peace negotiations with the ELN.
Luis Manuel Diaz’s kidnapping on October 28 in the small town of Barrancas quickly drew international attention. On Sunday, the younger Diaz appealed for his father’s release after scoring for Liverpool in a Premier League football match, revealing a T-shirt saying “Freedom for Papa” in Spanish.
It was initially unclear who carried out the abduction. But Colombia’s government announced last week that it had information that Díaz was kidnapped by an ELN unit.
The ELN later acknowledged the kidnapping, saying it was a mistake and that the group’s top leadership had ordered the elder Diaz’s release.
An ELN statement Sunday said that the planned release was hampered by military deployments in northern Colombia and that it couldn’t guarantee a safe release under those circumstances. The Colombian military said Monday that it was shifting its positions to facilitate a release.
Both parents of Liverpool’s Diaz had been kidnapped by armed men on motorcycles at a gas station in Barrancas. But the footballer’s mother, Cilenis Marulanda, was rescued within hours by police who set up roadblocks around the town of 40,000 people, which is near Colombia’s border with Venezuela.
After the kidnapping, special forces were deployed in the area to search for Diaz’s father in a mountain range that straddles both countries and is covered by cloud forest. Police also offered a $48,000 reward for information leading to him.
The 26-year-old striker is one of the most talented players on Colombia’s national team. He joined Liverpool in a deal worth $67 million.