The father of Liverpool’s Luis Diaz has been released by kidnappers, the Colombian Football Federation has confirmed.
On Thursday, Colombian news outlet Semana reported that the rescue mission for the footballer’s father, which saw a 9am helicopter flight full of volunteers from the UN and the Catholic Church, was a success.
“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.”
Mr Diaz, was abducted at gun-point on October 28 by left-wing guerrilla group Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN).
Police began preparations for the release of Mr Diaz earlier in the week after he had been held by the guerrilla group for more than seven days.
The UN and the Church have been working in conjunction with the Colombian government to negotiate Diaz’s freedom.
After footage of a helicopter taking off from Valledupar, a city in northeastern Colombia, emerged from the rescue mission by the UN and the Church, via BluRadio Colombia, Semana went on to confirm his successful release.
Concern grew on Tuesday after there was no sign of the start of ELN’s release process despite measures to facilitate it, with Diaz’s family calling for the group to offer proof that Diaz Snr was still alive.
But on Wednesday, hope was renewed again as humanitarian groups including representatives from the Catholic Chruch and the United Nations gathered on the Colombian-Venezuelan border after establishing contact with ELN to begin the handover.
On Thursday morning local time, Semana reported the handover had been a success.
Members of the police and other special forces had been searching for the Liverpool star’s father since October 28.
His father and mother, Cilenis Marulanda were abducted from the town of Barrancas in La Guajira, Colombia by the group, before the ELN, who are considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and European Union, fled the scene.
Reports on Friday had claimed that Diaz’s father would be freed that day, but his release did not materialise.
Juan Carlos Cuellar, a representative of the group, stated in a community meeting that Diaz Snr would be ‘released as soon as possible’.
On Sunday October 30, it emerged that Diaz’s mother had been rescued after she was left in a car by the guerrilla group, with members of the ELN keeping his father as a captive.
His mother made her first appearance since the kidnapping last Tuesday, demanding that the abductors release her partner safely before leading hundreds on a march in their home town.