The father of Liverpool player Luis Díaz is being held prisoner by the National Liberation Army, a Colombian guerrilla group, the Colombian government announced via The Associated Press.
Both of Díaz's parents were reportedly kidnapped last Saturday at a gas station in the small town of Barrancas by a group of armed men on motorcycles. His mother, Cilenis Marulanda, was rescued hours later via a police roadblock around the town, but his father Luis Manuel Díaz remains missing.
The government confirmed the identity of the kidnappers, abbreviated as ELN, Thursday:
The peace delegation of the government, which is currently in negotiations with ELN, said in a statement it was “officially aware” that the kidnapping had been “perpetrated by a unit that belongs to ELN.”
“We demand that the ELN releases immediately Mr. Luis Manuel Díaz and we say as of now that they are entirely responsible to secure his life and integrity,” said Otty Patiño, who leads the peace delegation.
The National Liberation Army, known locally as Ejército de Liberación Nacional, is classified as a foreign terrorist group by the U.S. State Department and has existed in Colombia since its founding by communist leaders in 1964, with a membership currently numbering in the thousands.
Special forces have reportedly been searching for the elder Díaz in a cloud forest-covered mountain range straddling Colombia and Venezuela, so far with no luck. Police have offered a $48,000 reward for information leading to his rescue.
The younger Díaz joined Liverpool from Porto early last year on a reported $45.7 million deal with $15.2 million in potential bonuses. His current salary comes in around $3.4 million, per Capology. He has quickly become a fan favorite player in Merseyside, accruing 14 goals and six assists in 58 total matches played.
Díaz has not played since his father's kidnapping, but his teammate Diogo Jota paid tribute to him by holding up his jersey after scoring a goal Sunday against Nottingham Forest. Barracas residents also held a candlelit march with posters and shirts Tuesday with the hope of his father's safe return.