December 3, 2023

Liverpool star Luis Diaz has been reunited with his father who was kidnapped and held hostage by a guerilla group in Colombia.

The pair were visibly emotional – with Diaz’s father in tears – as they embraced in Barranquilla for the first time since the ordeal.

The Colombian football federation announced Luis Manuel Diaz Jimenez’s arrival in the city, with the message “welcome home Luchooo”.

The Colombian national team are due to play Brazil there on Thursday in a South American qualifying round for the 2026 World Cup.

Image:
The pair looked visibly emotional as they reunited. Pic: Colombia Football Federation/Reuters

Mr Diaz Jimenez had been held hostage for 12 days in a mountainous area of Colombia by members of the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

He was taken along with Diaz’s mother, Cilenis Marulanda, on 28 October by armed men on motorbikes at a petrol station in the town of Barrancas, near Colombia’s border with Venezuela.

Ms Marulanda was rescued within hours by police.

After Mr Diaz Jimenez was kidnapped, special forces searched for him in a mountain range that spans the two countries.

And a $48,000 (£38,000) reward was offered by police for information leading to his rescue.

Diaz had pleaded with his father’s kidnappers to release him and said he and his brothers were “desperate” to see him returned.

The group later admitted the kidnapping was a mistake and its top leadership ordered Mr Diaz Jimenez’s release.

He was eventually freed last Thursday in the vicinity of the Serrania del Perija, a mountainous area of difficult access on the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

Four suspects were arrested at the weekend in connection with the kidnapping.

Read more:
Luis Diaz’s father reveals details of kidnapping

The abduction happened during peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN, and left the talks in a critical state.

The government wants the group to promise to end its kidnappings and free remaining captives – a key issue in the next round of discussions.

The ELN has defended the kidnappings as a way of financing itself, and claimed it “is poor like the majority of Colombians”.

Armed groups in Colombia carried out 160 kidnappings and 121 releases between January 2022 and September 2023, according to the country’s ombudsman’s office.