JERUSALEM (AP) — A dual Israeli-Russian citizen who has been missing in Iraq for months is being held by an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the office of Israel’s prime minister said Wednesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Elizabeth Tsurkov, who disappeared in late March, is still alive “and we hold Iraq responsible for her safety and well-being.”
Tsurkov, who is an academic whose work focuses on the Middle East and specifically war-torn Syria, is an expert on regional affairs and was widely quoted over the years by international media.
Netanyahu said she is being held by the Shiite militia Kataeb Hezbollah that is one of Iraq’s most powerful Iran-backed groups. He added that Tsurkov 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.”
There has been no official comment from Iraq since she went missing but days after her disappearance, a local website reported that an Iranian citizen who was involved in her kidnapping was detained by Iraqi authorities. It added that the woman was kidnapped from Baghdad’s central neighbourhood of Karradah and Iran’s embassy in the Iraqi capital is pressing for the man’s release.
Netanyahu’s office said Tsurkov’s case is being handled by the “relevant parties in the State of Israel out of concern for Elizabeth Tsurkov’s security and well-being.”
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, citing the country’s hostile rhetoric, support for militant groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and its suspected nuclear program. Iran denies Western allegations that it is pursuing a nuclear bomb.