Footballer Díaz begs father’s ELN kidnappers to free him

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Colombian-born Liverpool footballer Luis Díaz has begged for his father’s kidnappers to free him immediately and “end this painful wait”.

Both of Díaz’s parents were seized at gunpoint in his hometown of Barrancas by left-wing guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) on 28 October.

While his mother was found, his father is still missing.

Díaz scored a goal against Luton 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.

“My mother, my brothers and I are desperate, anxious and have no words to describe what we are feeling. This suffering will only end when we have him home with us.

“I beg that they free him immediately, respecting his integrity and ending this painful wait. In the name of love and compassion we ask they reconsider their actions and allow us to have him back.”

Díaz also thanked “the Colombians and the international community for the support that’s been received, [and the] many demonstrations of care and solidarity in this difficult moment”.

View of pamphlets asking for information about the whereabouts of the father of Liverpool's Colombian forward Luis Diaz in Barrancas, Colombia on November 1, 2023.

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The Colombian government has deployed hundreds of police and soldiers to free the footballer’s father, Luis Manuel Díaz.

On the day of the kidnap attack, CCTV footage showed the car Díaz’s parents were driving in being followed by men on motorbikes.

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 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 – late said that it had “official knowledge” that the kidnapping had been carried out by “a unit belonging to the ELN”.

A representative of the group has reportedly said the group will free Díaz’s father in the coming days.

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 Cilenis Marulanda live.

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