Colombian police comb through cloud forest searching for soccer star's abducted father

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Police air and land patrols searched a cloud forest in northern Colombia on Monday for soccer star Luis Díaz’s father, who was kidnapped over the weekend along with the player’s mother.

The couple were at a gas station in the small town of Barrancas on Saturday when they were abducted by armed men on motorcycles. Diaz's mother, Cilenis Marulanda, was rescued within hours by police that set up roadblocks around the town of 40,000 people, which is near Colombia's border with Venezuela.

But his father, Luis Manuel Díaz, remained missing. On Monday, special forces searched a mountain range that straddles both countries and is covered by cloud forest. Police also offered a $48,0000 reward for information leading to Diaz’s father.

Officials said they did not rule out the possibility that the elder Díaz could have been smuggled into Venezuela, where he would be beyond the reach of Colombian police.

Díaz is one of the most talented players on Colombia’s national team and currently plays for Liverpool in the English Premier League, which he joined last year in a deal worth $67 million.

The 26-year-old striker was absent from Liverpool’s match against Nottingham Forest on Sunday. Díaz's teammates expressed their solidarity with the Colombian by holding up one of his jerseys on the pitch after scoring the team’s first goal in their 3-0 victory.

The abduction of Díaz’s parents comes as kidnappings for ransom and extortion of businesses increase in Colombia despite efforts by the nation’s first left-wing government to broker ceasefires with rebel groups. Criminals and rebel groups in the country have long kidnapped civilians for ransom in order to finance their operations.

So far, none of the armed groups operating in Colombia has claimed responsibility for kidnapping Diaz’s parents.