MEXICO CITY - A widely known U.S. anti-kidnapping expert has himself fallen victim to Mexico's wave of abductions as unidentified assailants snatched him from a street in the northern city of Saltillo, one of his employers said yesterday.

The kidnapping of U.S. security consultant Felix Batista - who was in Saltillo to offer advice on how to deal with abductions for ransom - showed how bold Mexico's kidnappers have become.

"We have notified the FBI and Mexican authorities, and they are working on the case," said Charlie LeBlanc, president of the Houston, Texas-based security firm ASI Global LLC., for which Batista is a consultant. "What we are doing is we're offering our support to the family and hoping for the best."

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said it would not comment on the case.

LeBlanc said Batista "was abducted on the evening of December 10 by unknown assailants" in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila state. He said that Batista had his own security business and that "he was in Mexico for business that wasn't associated with our company."

Batista's work involved "crisis- management consulting," Le-Blanc said. "Part of that could be or may involve negotiations with kidnappers."

Kidnapping has become a rising problem in Mexico, and Coahuila's governor recently set off a nationwide controversy by proposing to reinstate the death penalty for kidnappers who kill their victims. Mexico outlawed the death penalty in 2005 and abandoned it in practice decades ago. *