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 Kata’ib Hezbollah group 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 be allowed to enter with an Israeli passport.
Mrs. 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.
Ms. Tsurkov’s abduction raised fears that she could be transferred to Iran, but there was no indication that had happened, according to people familiar with the episode.
“Elizabeth Tsurkov is still alive and we are responsible in Iraq for her safety and well-being,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement. “She is an academic who visited Iraq on her Russian passport, on her own initiative for her doctorate and academic research on behalf of Princeton University in the United States. The matter is being addressed by the relevant parties in the State of Israel out of concern for the security and well-being by Elizabeth Tsurkov.”
Ms. Tsurkov’s family confirmed in a statement that she was kidnapped while researching her Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton.
“She was kidnapped in the middle of Baghdad, and we hold the Iraqi government directly responsible for her safety,” the statement said. “We are asking for her immediate release from this illegal detention.”