, NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico, May 30 – Mexican footballer Alan Pulido, a striker on Greece’s Olympiakos team, was kidnapped Sunday in his home state of Tamaulipas, law enforcement officials said.
Family members told authorities that six armed men snatched Pulido around dawn in his hometown of Ciudad Victoria, in northeastern Mexico.
“It’s confirmed that footballer Alan Pulido disappeared after returning from a party north of the city and he has not been located,” state prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla told reporters.
“We are not aware (that the kidnappers) have spoken or communicated with the family,” he said.
Officials said military and police forces were searching for the 25-year-old in Tamaulipas, which shares a border with the United States.
It is one of Mexico’s most dangerous states, where drug trafficking and kidnappings are rampant.
Certain roads are so dangerous that the federal police sometimes escort travelers in protective convoys.
Local media reported that Pulido had accompanied his girlfriend to a party in Ciudad Victoria, and that the car they were in was intercepted by a convoy of vans that blocked the road and forced him out.
The young woman was released almost immediately, but said she had no idea where Pulido had been taken.
In Athens, officials with Olympiakos said they were in constant contact with the family, as well as with Mexican Ambassador Tarcisio Navarrete Montes de Oca, who told them that Mexican authorities were doing “everything possible.”
Pulido played in the Greek Cup final on May 17 – his team lost to AEK, 2-1 – before leaving for Ciudad Victoria.
He signed a four-year contract with Olympiakos last season. He has played in six matches this season, scoring four goals.
Olympiakos posted a photo of Pulido on Twitter and a message in Spanish, Greek and English: “At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Alan. We sincerely hope that this ordeal will soon end and that he will return home safely.”
Pulido’s former Mexican club, Tigres, also voiced its support on Twitter, saying it wished to express “solidarity with the family of @puliidooo during the difficult situation that it is facing.”
Pulido was a member of the Mexican squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, though he did not see any playing time during the tournament.
Tamaulipas is home to the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels, two criminal groups that were once allies but have fought brutal turf wars in recent years.
While they have both been weakened by the captures or killings of top leaders, their members still sow fear in the population.
About 5,000 people are listed as “disappeared” in Tamaulipas, out of the total 26,000 people reported missing in Mexico last year.
But according to the non-governmental organization Families and Friends of the Disappeared in Tamaulipas, 11,000 people are unaccounted for in the state.