How the kidnapping ordeal of Luis Diaz’s father has unfolded: From armed men snatching Liverpool star’s parents at a gas station to high-level talks with a terrorist group and hundreds of soldiers searching… but no one knows if he’s still alive
- The release of Luis Diaz’s father by left-wing guerrillas is set to commence
- Diaz’s parents were abducted on October 28, the start of an horrendous ordeal
- Liverpool’s Luis Diaz is extraordinary – Listen here to It’s All Kicking Off
There is cautious optimism the ordeal suffered by Liverpool star Luis Diaz and his family after his father was kidnapped in his native Colombia could soon be over.
On Wednesday, the chief negotiator for the Colombian government claimed the process of releasing Luis Manuel Diaz was ready to commence.
It is almost two weeks since he was taken by armed members of the left-wing guerrilla group Ejercito de Liberation Nacional [ELN], sparking a large scale search involving hundreds of police and military personnel.
Diaz’s family asked the insurgents for proof Luis Manuel was still alive after earlier hopes of his release were dashed.
Here is a timeline of the fast-moving events since the kidnapping on October 28.
Luis Manuel Diaz, the father of Liverpool forward Luis Diaz, is still missing almost two weeks after his kidnapping by armed gunmen from rebel group ELN. However, there is cautious optimism now the process to free him is about to commence
The Liverpool star’s mother (above in 2019, left centre) was rescued the day after the abduction on October 28 but his father (left) remains missing
Diaz lifted up his Liverpool shirt, in his first game since the kidnapping, to release a message that said in Spanish: ‘Freedom for Papa’ after scoring at Luton
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Saturday October 28
Diaz’s mother, Cilenis Marulanda, and father, Luis Manuel ‘Mane’ Diaz, are kidnapped by armed men on motorcycles after stopping at a petrol station in their hometown of Barrancas, in the north-east of Colombia.
When they stop to buy watermelons, they are abducted by four armed men on motorcycles, reports say.
Early accounts are conflicting, with some claiming the kidnappers stole the Diaz family’s car and others suggesting the motorcycles were taken from civilians.
The police in Barrancas launch what is known as a ‘padlock’ operation, blocking potential escape routes and searching vehicles, to try and track them down.
Diaz is preparing for Liverpool’s Premier League match at home to Nottingham Forest when the news comes through and withdraws from the squad.
A club statement confirmed it was ‘aware of an ongoing situation involving the family of Luis Diaz in Colombia’. They add: ‘It is our fervent hope that the matter is resolved safely and at the earliest possible opportunity.’
Diaz’s mum and dad were both kidnapped as they stopped at a gas station in Barrancas
Sunday October 29
Diaz’s mother is rescued by police, with reports saying she was left in a car by the kidnappers, with a ‘major military search’ launched to locate his still-missing father.
The Colombian president Gustavo Petro commits ‘all the public forces’ to the operation.
Colombia’s national team coach, Nestor Lorenzo, writes on social media: ‘We pray and cry out for the speedy release of your father safe and healthy. All Colombia is with you, Lucho [Diaz’s nickname].’
Liverpool beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 at Anfield. Diogo Jota celebrates scoring the first goal by holding up a ‘Luis Diaz 7’ shirt.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp says the ‘worrying situation’ in the lead-up to the Forest game was ‘a new experience I never needed’.
Klopp adds: ‘How can you make a football game seem really important on a day like this?’
Military personnel involved in the extensive search for Luis Manuel Diaz in La Guajira
Diogo Jota holds up a Luis Diaz shirt after scoring for Liverpool against Nottingham Forest
Monday October 30
General William Rene Salamanca announces a reward of up to 200 million pesos [around £40,000] for information about the whereabouts of Luis Manuel.
It emerges that Luis Diaz has been advised not to return to his homeland and to stay in England on security grounds.
The Colombian army says the search for his father was ongoing using ‘two motorised platoons, unmanned aircraft, checkpoints, helicopters, a plane with specialised radar and 120 men.’
Border crossing located inside dense jungle between Colombia and Venezuela are being monitored by army commandos.
The authorities offered a reward of around £40,000 for information about the kidnapping
Tuesday October 31
Reports in Colombia say army forces were focusing their search on the mountain ranges and jungle on the border between the country and Venezuela, to the east.
The authorities cannot rule out the possibility Luis Manuel is already inside Venezuela but General Salamanca says it would be difficult to cross through the jungle.
Reports say the search has ‘reached a point of stagnation’ with the authorities awaiting contact from the kidnappers and their demands.
Luis Diaz breaks his silence with a social media post about a planned march in Barrancas to demand his father’s release. ‘Free him now,’ he demands.
That evening, hundreds of people took to the streets of Barrancas to demand Luis Manuel’s release, including his wife.
They wear t-shirts with his portrait on them, hold white balloons and light candles. Among the crowd were Alfonso Diaz, the Liverpool star’s paternal grandfather, and his uncle Gabriel.
Diaz’s mother, Cilenis Marulanda (centre), leads a march in Barrancas calling for the safe release of her husband
Friends and family of Luis Diaz gather to demand the safe return of Luis Manuel Diaz
Hundreds of members of the local community joined forces dressed in white holding balloons
Wednesday November 1
Diaz plays no part in Liverpool’s 2-1 away win over Bournemouth in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup but he is back in training.
Thursday November 2
The Colombian government reveals the Ejercito de Liberation Nacional, who are regarded as a terrorist organisation by the United States, was responsible for the kidnapping.
The group was founded in 1964 by radical Catholics inspired by Cuba’s communist revolution. They have been responsible for several kidnappings in Colombia, as well as a car bombing at the Bogota police academy in 2019 that killed 21 people and injured another 68.
Peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government have been ongoing since March 2020, when the guerrilla group declared a unilateral ceasefire following the Covid-19 outbreak.
The government issues a statement reminding the ELN that ‘kidnapping is a criminal practice, violative of international humanitarian law’ and could threaten the peace process.
The ELN release a public statement saying they will release Diaz’s father as soon as possible, saying the process of freeing him has already started.
ELN representative Juan Carlos Cuellar told a community meeting ‘he will be released as soon as possible’, with the video clip then shared publicly.
The National Liberation Army – abbreviated as ELN in Spanish – is a leftist anti-government group made up of over 2,000 fighters and militants based in the Colombian countryside
A man is searched at a police checkpoint as the military operation escalates in Barrancas
Friday November 3
President Petro says the kidnappers have not come good on their promise to release Diaz’s father yet and the situation is becoming ‘very dangerous’.
Petro is in Washington on an official visit to the United States and adds: ‘The ELN has committed an act that contravenes the peace process.
‘There is an expressed wish on the part of the ELN leaders to free him as soon as possible. But the hours are passing, and as this goes on in time, the situation in which Mr Diaz is in becomes very dangerous.’
Petro said he’d personally spoken to Luis Diaz to reassure him every effort was being made to secure his father’s release.
Police officers search cars in Barrancas as part of the search for Luis Diaz’s father
Sunday November 5
The head of the ELN admits they had made a ‘mistake’ by not freeing Diaz’s father.
‘The retention of Luis Diaz’s father by the Northern War Front was a mistake,’ said commander Antonio Garcia on his Telegram channel. ‘Lucho is a symbol of Colombia – that is how we in the ELN feel about him.’
The search escalates to involve some 150 uniformed military personnel from the National Police, army and air force in the Barrancas area.
Diaz comes off the bench to score a 95th-minute equaliser as Liverpool draw 1-1 at Luton Town. He reveals a t-shirt underneath his jersey with the message ‘freedom for papa’ written on it.
After the match, Diaz writes on social media: ‘This is not Luis Diaz the player speaking. Today I am the son of Luis Manuel Diaz. My dad hard-working family man.
‘I ask the ELN for the prompt release of my father, and I ask international organisations to work together for his freedom.
‘Every second, every minute, our anguish grows. My mother, my brothers and I are desperate, distressed and without words to describe what we are feeling. This suffering will only end when we have him back home.
‘I beg you to release him immediately, respecting his integrity and ending this painful wait as soon as possible.
‘In the name of love and compassion, we ask that you reconsider your actions and allow us to recover him.
‘I thank Colombians and the international community for the support received, thank you for so many demonstrations of affection and solidarity in this difficult time that many families in my country find themselves living.’
Speaking at Kenilworth Road, Klopp said: ‘It’s wonderful, it’s emotional and it’s fantastic but the real problem is not sorted because of that.
‘The signs from Colombia are rather positive, optimistic, but not the one thing we want to hear didn’t happen yet.’
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp embraced Diaz before he came on as a substitute on Sunday
Monday November 6
News outlet Semana report that police have started ‘preparations for the release’ of Luis Manuel.
But ELN commander Jose Manuel Martinez Quiroz says they won’t release him until the government forces withdraw from the area.
‘The area is still militarised, they are carrying out flyovers, disembarking troops, broadcasting and offering rewards as part of an intense search operation.
‘If operations continue in the area, they will delay the release and increase the risks.’
Wednesday November 8
Reports from Noticias Caracol suggest Luis Manuel could shortly be released after the ELN made contact with representatives of the United Nations and the Catholic Church, who along with the Colombian government, are working to secure his freedom.
The news outlet said the release would take place close to the Colombia-Venezuela border.
Diaz travels with the Liverpool squad to Toulouse, where they will play in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night.
Colombian forward Luis Diaz boards the plane to Toulouse for Liverpool’s Europa League game
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