Elizabeth Tsurkov Held for Months in Iraq by Militia Linked to Iran

An Israeli researcher missing for months in Iraq is being held by a Shiite militia, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Elizabeth Tsurkov, 36, a doctoral student at Princeton University, was kidnapped and held by the group Kata’ib Hezbollah after leaving a cafe in a middle-class neighborhood of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, in late March, according to her family and people with knowledge of her case.

She holds both Israeli and Russian passports and entered the country using her Russian passport, according to the Israeli government. Israel and Iraq do not have diplomatic relations, so she would not have been allowed to enter with an Israeli passport.

Ms. Tsurkov went to Iraq in January to do academic research there. As well as studying at Princeton, she is a fellow at the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a Washington-based research group.

The seizure of Ms. Tsurkov raised fears that she could be transferred to Iran, but there has been no indication that that has happened, according to the people familiar with the episode.

“Elizabeth Tsurkov is still alive and we hold Iraq responsible for her safety and well-being,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement. “She is an academic who visited Iraq on her Russian passport, at her own initiative pursuant to work on her doctorate and academic research on behalf of Princeton University in the US. The matter is being handled by the relevant parties in the State of Israel out of concern for Elizabeth Tsurkov’s security and well-being.”

Ms. Tsurkov’s family confirmed in a statement that she had been kidnapped while researching her Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton.

“She was kidnapped in the middle of Baghdad, and we see the Iraqi government as directly responsible for her safety,” the statement said. “We ask for her immediate release from this unlawful detention.”

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