The father of Liverpool footballer Luis Diaz has been freed by his captors in Colombia – almost two weeks after being kidnapped.
Luis Manuel Diaz was released by guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN), according to the Colombian FA.
Local TV channels showed him at an airstrip after landing in a helicopter – and images of his family members crying with happiness.
Diaz’s parents were abducted by armed men on motorcycles at a petrol station in the town of Barrancas, near Colombia’s border with Venezuela on 28 October.
The 26-year-old footballer’s mother, Cilenis Marulanda, was rescued within hours by police after roadblocks were set up.
Special forces were deployed to search for Mr Diaz – with air and land patrols trawling a mountain range that straddles both Colombia and Venezuela.
Officials said they could not rule out the possibility that he had been smuggled over the border – meaning he would have been out of reach of Colombian police.
A reward of $48,000 (£39,000) had been offered for information leading police to the hostage.
The Liverpool winger had pleaded with his father’s captors to release him – and said he and his brothers were in a “desperate” situation.
The ELN had given hope to the footballer, his family and those connected to Liverpool FC after they said the kidnapping was a mistake and had ordered his release.
On Sunday, the guerrilla group said these plans had been stifled by military deployments in the north of Colombia, and it could not guarantee his safety in those conditions.
A day later, the Colombian military said that it was shifting its positions to facilitate a release.
Kidnapping ‘should never have happened’
Those negotiating peace talks with the ELN celebrated Mr Diaz’s freedom – but made it clear the kidnapping “should never have happened”.
All people being held by the ELN must be liberated, the statement added, though it did not give a figure for the remaining hostages.
The Colombian FA thanked the government, the military, authorities and everyone involved in securing Mr Diaz’s release, adding: “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.”
Colombian President Gustavo Petro added: “Long live freedom and peace.”
Diaz came off the bench to save Liverpool from a shock defeat at Luton on Sunday, claiming a stoppage-time equaliser to snatch a 1-1 draw.
He lifted his shirt in celebration to reveal a message on a white T-shirt that read “libertad para papa” or “freedom for my father”.
The kidnapping of Diaz’s father disrupted the Colombian government’s peace talks with the ELN, which restarted last year in hopes of ending a 60-year conflict that has killed at least 450,000 people.