Group who kidnapped father of Liverpool's Luis Diaz will release him 'as soon as possible'

Colombia's government reported that the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas were responsible for the kidnapping earlier on Thursday

Cilenis Marulanda, left, the mother of Liverpool's Colombian footballer Luis Diaz, demonstrates for her kidnapped husband in Barrancas, La Guajira, Colombia on October 31, 2023. AFP
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A representative of Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas said on Thursday that the kidnapped father of Liverpool player Luis Diaz will be released "as soon as possible" as the Colombian government continue to negotiate for his release.

Diaz's mother Cilenis Marulanda and father Luis Manuel Diaz were taken by armed men as they were driving in La Guajira province on Saturday. Marulanda was freed within hours.

Hundreds of police and soldiers have been deployed to free Diaz senior.

Colombia's government reported that the ELN was responsible for the kidnapping earlier on Thursday. Interior Minister Luis Fernando Velasco said the situation was "very serious" and that it violated a ceasefire between the government and the rebels.

Peace talks between the ELN and the government restarted last year in hopes of ending the group's part in Colombia's 60-year conflict, which has killed at least 450,000 people.

The government and the ELN began a six-month ceasefire in August as part of talks.

ELN representative Juan Carlos Cuellar told a community meeting, in a video clip shared by the ELN with Reuters that Diaz's father will be released "as soon as possible".

Earlier on Thursday, the government's peace delegation charged with negotiating with the ELN called for Diaz's father to be released immediately.

"We remind the ELN that kidnapping is criminal, violates international humanitarian law and that its duty in building the peace process is not just to stop [kidnapping] but to eliminate it forever," Otty Patino, head of the government's peace delegation, said in a statement.

The ELN, Colombia's most radical leftist guerrilla group, has long funded its operations with kidnapping, as well as extortion and drug trafficking, according to security sources.

The kidnapping of Luis Díaz's father has caused outrage in Colombia, where the player - who is part of Colombia's national team - is immensely popular.

On Tuesday, hundreds accompanied Marulanda on a march to demand his release.

Colombia's national police force also announced a reward of $48,500 for any information leading to his rescue

His Liverpool team has also shown its unwavering support, with manager Jürgen Klopp dedicating Sunday's 3-0 Premier League victory over Nottingham Forest to Díaz, saying they had won "for our brother”, while Diogo Jota held up the Colombia player's number seven shirt after scoring Liverpool's first goal.

Updated: November 03, 2023, 7:51 AM