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Lawmakers urge Biden to help free Princeton researcher kidnapped in Iraq

The State Department says it has urged senior Iraqi officials to locate and secure the release of Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian researcher believed to be held by Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah.
Elizabeth Tsurkov

WASHINGTON — Ahead of the Iraqi prime minister's visit to Washington, a group of House Democrats is urging the Biden administration to help secure the release of Elizabeth Tsurkov, a doctoral student at Princeton University believed to have been kidnapped by an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq. 

In a letter obtained by Al-Monitor, 16 congressional Democrats led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) urged the administration to "continue pursuing negotiations for her release with all relevant parties as part of the United States’ longtime security partnership with the government of Iraq."

Their letter Monday to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken comes more than a year after Tsurkov, a citizen of both Russia and Israel, was abducted while leaving a cafe in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood in March 2023. 

Tsurkov, who was living in the United States on an academic visa, had arrived in Iraq two months earlier to conduct field research on Shiite movements for her Ph.D. dissertation. A fluent Arabic speaker and Middle East analyst, Tsurkov regularly briefed US congressional committees and her work frequently appeared in major news outlets.  

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