Football star’s father freed by guerrillas after kidnap ordeal

Luis Manuel Diaz, 58, was handed over to UN and Catholic Church officials after the communist National Liberation Army, known as the ELN, admitted it blundered in abducting him on October 28.

Cilenis Marulanda, the mother of Anfield forward Luis, 26, was also seized by the armed raiders in the family’s home town, Barrancas, but was released within hours.

The kidnap sparked outrage in Colombia, where national team star Luis is immensely popular.

He had appealed for his father’s release and Liverpool team-mates supported him by displaying his shirt during one match. When Luis scored against Luton Town on Sunday, he lifted his shirt to reveal the words “freedom for Papa” in Spanish.

He said later: “Every second, every minute our anxiety grows.” Last night reports said his father was taken by helicopter to the city of Valledupar for tests. Authorities said he showed no signs of mistreatment.

In tearful scenes, family members – most in Liverpool FC shirts – drove through Luis’s neighbourhood to ­celebrate. His cousin, Luis Alfonso, said: “We feel a great satisfaction, we are glad it’s come to an end.”


Luis Manuel Diaz

Colombian president Gustavo Petro tweeted: “Long live Freedom and Peace.” The Colombian Football Federation said: “Football is passion in peace. Let no one ever think of attacking that reality again.”

Mr and Mrs Diaz were ambushed by the gunmen at a petrol station in Barrancas, in the northern province of La Guajira. CCTV footage showed the couple being followed by men on motorbikes before the kidnap.

The 2,500-strong ELN has been fighting the state since 1964.


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