Page last updated at 08:00 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

US anti-kidnap expert kidnapped

Arrests in Tijuana, Mexico (3 Dec 2008)
The Mexican army is targeting gangs involved in kidnapping and drugs

A US anti-kidnapping expert who has negotiated the release of dozens of hostages in Latin America has been abducted by gunmen in Mexico.

Felix Batista, a Cuban-American from Miami, was kidnapped as he stepped outside a restaurant to answer a phone call in the northern city of Saltillo.

Drug gangs are blamed for hundreds of kidnappings in Mexico each year.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence between rival cartels this year.

Mr Batista is credited with negotiating the release of many kidnap victims.

He was in Saltillo, in Coahuila state, to offer advice on how to deal with kidnaps for ransom when he himself was seized last Wednesday, local authorities revealed on Monday.

Support for family

Charlie LeBlanc, president of Houston-based security firm ASI Global LLC, where Mr Batista is a consultant, said: "We have notified the FBI and Mexican authorities, and they are working on the case.

"We are offering our support to the family and hoping for the best."

He declined to say whether the kidnappers had demanded a ransom.

The US embassy in Mexico City said it was investigating and would not comment further.

Hundreds of people are kidnapped in Mexico every year.

The number of victims has increased sharply following an army-backed crackdown on drug gangs, which has forced cartels to seek new ways of making money to fund their operations.

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