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Rebel group claims military action delaying release of Luis Díaz’s father

The rebel group holding Luis Díaz’s father claims military action in the local area is not only delaying the release of their hostage but putting him at risk. Díaz’s parents were kidnapped more than a week ago – his mother was freed quickly – and despite pledges from the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) to expedite the return of Díaz Sr, it is taking longer than expected.

“On November 2, we informed the country of the decision to release Mr Luis Manuel Díaz, father of the player Luis Díaz,” said a statement, signed by the unit leader, Commander Jose Manuel Martinez Quiroz.

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“From that date, we began the process to accomplish this as soon as possible. We are making efforts to avoid incidents with government forces. The area is still militarised, they are carrying out flyovers, disembarking troops, broadcasting and offering rewards as part of an intense search operation.

“This situation is not allowing for the execution of the release plan quickly and safely, where Mr Luis Manuel Díaz is not at risk. If operations continue in the area, they will delay the release and increase the risks.

“We understand the anguish of the Díaz-Marulanda family, to whom we say that we will keep our word to release him unilaterally, as soon as we have security guarantees for the development of the liberation operation.”

Díaz made an emotional plea for his father’s return after coming off the bench to score a late equaliser for Liverpool at Luton on Sunday before lifting his shirt to display the message “Libertad para Papa” (“Freedom for Dad”).

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The winger, who was making his first appearance since the kidnappings, then posted on Instagram: “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.

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“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.”