Latest: Police, military form search party for kidnapped El Tri striker
CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) Federal and state forces mounted a big search operation Sunday for Mexican soccer star Alan Pulido, who was abducted in the crime-plagued northern border state of Tamaulipas.
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The 25-year-old Pulido is a forward for Olympiacos of Greece and was part of Mexico’s 2014 World Cup team, though he wasn’t called up for the Copa America tournament that starts this coming week.
“We have information that he was intercepted by armed persons and since then his whereabouts are unknown,” said state Attorney General Ismael Quintanilla.
The Tamaulipas Coordination Group that includes federal and state security agents said on its Twitter account that it was searching for the player. Reporters in the city saw an unusual deployment of troops and police in the streets, while at least two police or military-style helicopters flew overhead.
A state official earlier said Pulido was kidnapped early Sunday after leaving a party near his hometown of Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas, a state that has suffered battles between major drug gangs. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss a case under investigation.
Authorities gave no further details about the kidnapping or a motive for the abduction, which happened a week before state elections to pick a new governor for Tamaulipas.
Pulido’s Greek team said it hoped for a good outcome for the player.
“At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Alan,” Olympiakos said on its official Twitter account in a message in both Spanish and English accompanied by a photograph of him.
Former teammates on Mexico’s national team went on social networks to offer their support for his welfare.
“A shame what happened,” goalkeeper Jesus Corona said on Twitter. “My prayers are with him and his family at this difficult time.”
Similar comments came in tweets by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, defenders Diego Reyes and Miguel Layun and strikers Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Oribe Peralta, all of whom are in the United States of the Copa America competition.
Pulido debuted and played several seasons with the club Tigres of Monterrey, whose Twitter account expressed solidarity with the player’s family “in the difficult situation they are experiencing.”
Pulido left the Tigres in 2014 to play in Europe, though he has been in a dispute with the Mexican club about whether his contract there continues to be valid.
National team coach Carlos Osorio recently said Pulido has the quality to be on the squad but was left off the Copa America team due to the legal dispute. He had scored three goals in earlier call-ups.
In the most recent season, he scored five times in eight appearances with Olympiacos.