Iraqi Militant Group Rejects Claims of Kidnapping Israeli-Russian Researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov
Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shiite militia that is Iran-linked, has rejected Israel’s accusations that it kidnapped Elizabeth Tsurkov. The Israeli-Russian researcher has been missing since March. She was in Iraq conducting field research for her doctoral degree.
Tsurkov’s disappearance comes after former Iraqi prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi sent a message to Washington and Moscow informing them that the researcher’s foreign nationalities, Russian and Israeli, and her work were “endangering her”.
On July 5, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in an official statement said Tsurkov was being held by Kataeb Hezbollah. It stated that the researcher is still alive and Israel sees Iraq responsible for her fate and wellbeing.
The Israeli PM’s office highlighted that Tsurkov entered Iraq on her Russian passport. Iraqi intelligence source says the researcher was kidnapped in Baghdad at the beginning of Ramadan. Tsurkov was leaving the Ridha Alwan café in Baghdad’s Karada neighborhood, which is full of coffee shops, clothing stores and markets.
Abducted From Apartment
An Iraqi official said Tsurkov was abducted at her apartment in Karada. Her roommate, an Iraqi researcher, was also kidnapped and released two weeks later. An Iraqi website claimed an Iranian citizen was behind the kidnapping and had been detained by Iraqi authorities. There are varying claims that Tsurkov was initially held by Iraqi intelligence and then transferred to Kataeb Hezbollah, and that the Iranians are involved in the abduction.
However, the paramilitary group has denied holding the Israeli-Russian researcher. It said security officials and the army must stand together and work hard to uncover the perpetrators and hold them to account. “We will, as Kataeb Hezbollah, spare no efforts to find the Israeli hostage in Iraq. We will find out who is behind these acts and how they are operating inside the country, and who is aiding them.”
Go to the Root
Abu Ali al-Askari, spokesman of Kataeb Hezbollah, on Telegram channel said the admission by the prime minister of the Zionist entity (Israel) concerning the presence of an Israeli security agent hostage in Iran is a very serious indicator. He added that the security organizations concerned should expose networks linked to the kidnapping. “In turn, Kataeb Hezbollah will work tirelessly to find out the fate of the Zionist hostage or hostages in Iraq…to discover more about the intentions of the criminal gang which facilitates their movements in a country…that prohibits and criminalizes any relationship with Israel.”
It should be noted that Israeli citizens cannot travel to Iraq. The two countries do not share any diplomatic relations after the Iraqi parliament passed a law, in 2022, criminalizing any attempt to normalize ties with Israel.
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Tsurkov visited Iraq on her “Russian” passport on her own initiative to work on her academic research.