Iran-Linked Militia Group Allegedly Abducts Grad Student Doing Field Research In Iraq

Elizabeth Tsurkov making a presentation at the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) in London, UK, on June 21, 2019. [YouTube/Screenshot/AtlanticCouncil]

John Oyewale Contributor
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A Princeton University doctoral student who has reportedly been missing in Iraq for several months is allegedly being held hostage by a Shiite militia group, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Wednesday.

Elizabeth Tsurkov is reportedly being held by the Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah, according to the statement. Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian dual citizen, reportedly visited Iraq on her Russian passport for doctorate and academic research on behalf of Princeton University before she went missing.

Tsurkov is also a fellow at the Washington, D.C. based think tank New Lines Institute. She was last heard from on March 19, saying in a message to the institute she “had enough of doing field research in the Middle East and wanted to return to Princeton University to write her doctoral dissertation,” according to a statement from the institute.

“Just over a week later we learned from our sources that a pro-Iranian militia had kidnapped her in Baghdad, where she had been doing research. We have not heard from her since,” the statement read. (RELATED: California Student Killed In Mexican Border State)

“We hold Iraq responsible for her safety and well-being,” the statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office read. Relevant parties in the State of Israel are handling the matter “out of concern for Elizabeth Tsurkov’s security and well-being.”

“We are deeply concerned for her safety and wellbeing,” a Princeton University statement posted to Twitter said.

Tsurkov, a political science doctoral student, says her research focuses “on the Levant, and particularly, the Syrian uprising and civil war.”

“My research is based on a large network of contacts – ordinary civilians, activists, combatants and communal, political and military leaders,” her website stated.

She has conducted fieldwork in other areas like Syria, Turkey and Jordan.

Kataib Hezbollah, also known as the Hezbollah Brigades or “Brigades of the Party of God,” was founded in 2007, is Iranian-backed and was declared a foreign terrorist organization by the United States in July 2009, according to Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

No official information on whether the U.S. government will be involved in trying to obtain Tsurkov’s release is immediately available, per a CBS news report.