The father of Liverpool footballer Luis Diaz who was abducted by the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia, has been released after 13 days in captivity.
The ELN handed Luis Diaz Sr over to the Catholic church and the UN, on Thursday afternoon putting an end to almost two weeks of international speculation about his whereabouts.
A post from Liverpool on the platform X said, “We are delighted by the news of Luis Diaz’s father’s safe return we thank all those involved in securing his release.”
On October 28, armed individuals abducted Luis Diaz Sr and his wife in Barrancas, located in Colombia’s northern La Guajira state.
While the footballer’s mother, Cilenis Marulanda, was released hours later, Díaz Sr was taken away on a motorcycle.
Local reports initially suggested that he had been abducted by the local mafia, but on November 2, the true identity of his captors was unveiled by a team of government officials negotiating with armed groups.
They confirmed that the ELN, the country’s oldest active guerrilla group, was holding him hostage.
On Thursday, local television channels aired footage of Diaz Sr at an airstrip in Valledupar, Cesar province, descending from a helicopter.
The government’s negotiating delegation at peace talks with the ELN celebrated his liberation, emphasizing that while he was safe, the kidnapping “should never have happened.
“The current process with the ELN has advanced like no other until today. Regardless, our delegation considers that the kidnapping of Luis Manuel Díaz has placed our dialogue in a critical situation and because of it, the time has come to take decisions to eliminate kidnapping,”the statement read.
On November 2, ELN leaders promised to release the 56-year-old, sparking hopes for his freedom.
However, Diaz’s family, Colombians and football fans worldwide anxiously awaited news of his release for almost another week.
Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, earlier criticised the armed rebels for endangering Díaz’s life and undermining ongoing peace negotiations with the government.
“There is a willingness expressed by the [ELN’s leadership] to release him as soon as possible but the hours pass and, as time passes, the circumstances in which Mr Diaz is in become very dangerous,” Petro told journalists in Washington DC last Friday.
Diaz’s family, increasingly concerned for his safety demanded proof this week that he was still alive.
The ELN attributed the delays to the Colombian military which has been searching a mountain range bordering Venezuela for any trace of Díaz.
It is not yet clear who brokered his freedom and whether the armed rebels received payment in exchange for freeing him