The Colombian military are preparing a 'manoeuvre' to aid the release of Luis Manuel Diaz, the father of Liverpool winger Luis Diaz, who was kidnapped nine days ago.
Both of 26-year-old Diaz's parents were abducted by armed men on motorbikes in their hometown of Barrancas in Colombia. While the player's mother, Cilenis Marulanda, was soon freed, the search and rescue mission involving the police and military for Diaz Snr has been ongoing.
Rebel group the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) have been identified as Diaz's father's captors. On Sunday, the organisation promising a release once they received 'security guarantees'.
Now a statement from Colonel Giovanni Montañez, posted by the Colombian military on X, has claimed that the groundwork is being laid to bring an end to the situation in the 'next few hours'.
He said: "With this military manoeuvre, all the guarantees and conditions are being provided so that he can regain his freedom in the next few hours.
"From the first moment of his kidnapping to date, the ELN is solely responsible for the physical integrity of Mr. Luis Manuel. The mission of the Colombia military has always been to protect the life and freedom of Luis Diaz's father and all Colombians."
Las tropas de las @FuerzasMilCol realizan un reposicionamiento y continuan la maniobra militar en la zona, el Coronel Giovanni Montañez, Director de nuestros @GaulaMilitares se refiere a la información que ha circulado en las últimas horas. (1) pic.twitter.com/ttpFXMobI3
— Fuerzas Militares de Colombia (@FuerzasMilCol) November 6, 2023
Colonel Montañez also confirmed the withdrawal of soldiers involved in the search and rescue operation, as part of the specified conditions for the release of Diaz Snr, saying: “The troops that are taking part in the search operation for Luis Manuel Diaz are being ordered to carry out a repositioning to give guarantees for the handover of this hostage.
“Men who were on the ground and leading searches and conducting roadblocks have been removed from the area. They are now in Barrancas and we can state that the area in question is free of any type of offensive operation.”
Diaz missed two Liverpool games due to the ongoing situation in his homeland, but remained in England amid reported security fears over returning to his homeland.
The number seven returned to the Reds' matchday squad for the draw at Luton Town on Sunday, scoring a stoppage-time equaliser before revealing a shirt which read 'freedom for dad'.
After the game, Diaz also shared a first public statement since the kidnapping.
Posting on X, he wrote: "Today the footballer is not talking to you, today Lucho Díaz, the son of Luis Manuel Diaz, is talking to you. Manuel, my dad, is a tireless worker, our pillar in the family and he is kidnapped. I ask the ELN for the prompt release of my father, and I ask international organisations to intervene 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 get him back home. I ask you to release him immediately, respecting his integrity and ending this as soon as possible. In the name of love and compassion, we ask that you reconsider your actions and allow us to take him back.
"I thank Colombians and the international community for the support received. Thank you for so many expressions of affection and solidarity in this difficult time that we, and many families, in my country are experiencing."