The Roman Catholic bishop who rescued Luis Diaz’s dad has revealed he has asked him to “marry him again” after losing his wedding band during his 13-day kidnap ordeal.
Monsignor Francisco Ceballos said Luis Manuel Diaz asked him to conduct the ceremony in which he will renew his wedding vows to Cilenis Marulanda. The pair were taken hostage together on October 28. Cilenis was abandoned at the roadside near her home town of Barrancas shortly afterwards but her 58-year-old husband was taken towards the Perija Mountains on Colombia ’s border with Venezuela and remained prisoner with his left-wing ELN hostage-takers until Thursday.
He is now resting after being reunited with his family and speaking to his Liverpool star son, who missed football action at the start of the kidnap drama but came off the bench last Sunday to score a last-gasp equaliser for Liverpool against Luton.
Monsignor Ceballos, who described on Thursday how he was the first person in the humanitarian team to see Luis Manuel Diaz alive after going to his rescue, said: “He told me I had to marry him again because he had lost his ring. He said he wanted to renew his wedding vows.”
Saying the father-of-four had only formalised his relationship with Luis Diaz’s mum last year, he pledged: “We will definitely do it whenever they want.”
AFP via Getty Images)
Respected Colombian media outlet Semana claimed after the footballer’s dad was freed that his hostage-takers had stolen all his valuables before handing him over. It attributed blame to the “men on the motorbikes” involved in the abduction of Luis Manuel Diaz and his wife as they bought water melons at a petrol station, saying they had taken the footballer trainer’s ring, chain and a bracelet. Semana added: “They weren’t just expensive objects. Above all they had great sentimental value.”
Monsignor Ceballos did not go into the circumstances of how Luis Manuel had managed to become parted with his wedding ring. It is also known he suffered a knee injury after coming off the motorbike one of his captors was riding.
The bishop had previously revealed to a Colombian radio station Mr Diaz had been forced to walk day and night during his kidnap ordeal. Speaking about the emotional moment he met him as he was freed, he said: “It’s a very emotional moment when you see a person who has been deprived of his liberty in front of you.
“I met him practically on the path he was coming along. I was the first person who saw him. I hugged him and he began to cry. He was very emotional and very tired because of the long walks he had to do.
“He told me he had to walk continuously for two days plus another four days when he was kidnapped. Of the 13 days he was kidnapped he was walking for six days day and night.”
Pierre Costabadie/Icon Sport via Getty Images)
Asked if football trainer Mr Diaz was aware of the intense police and military operation to snare his captors and rescue him while he was still a hostage, Monsignor Ceballos explained: “What he told me was that he sensed the helicopters very near, that they were very close by.
“He of course felt afraid because when the army is carrying out those search operation and the guerrilla insurgents are trying to hide, the moment comes when the person who’s been kidnapped is at risk. He was concerned there was going to be a confrontation.”
The release occurred after several earlier hopes of a rescue failed to materialise. The left-wing insurgent group ELN admitted responsibility for the kidnap late last week. It said a regional unit called the Northern War Front carried out the crime.
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The abduction of civilians has been a traditional practice of the ELN. a Marxist-Leninist group which was founded in 1964 by radical Catholics inspired by Cuba’s communist revolution.
It was behind a car bombing in January 2019 at a police academy in Bogota which killed 21 people and injured 68 others, making it one of the deadliest attacks ever in the Colombian capital.
Peace talks have been going on between the ELN and the Colombian government since March 2020 when the guerrilla group declared a unilateral ceasefire, although it has continued to take innocent people hostage and make ransom demands.
Mr Diaz insisted after his release no ransom money had been handed. His wife made an impassioned plea to the kidnappers to set him free after he was snatched.
She said as she took part in a second march on Sunday in Barrancas to demand his freedom: “I want them to release him now, that the people who are keeping him free him now back to me, because we want to have him back home.” She broke down in tears after speaking and was comforted by a relative.
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