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US senators urge Biden to help push for Israeli researcher's release

Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker say US should push Iraqi government to secure her release
Elizabeth Tsurkov in Istanbul, Turkey, on 26 May 2017 (AFP/Ahmad Mohamad)

Two United States senators are calling on the Biden administration to pressure the Iraqi government to facilitate the release of Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov, who disappeared in Iraq earlier this year.

The letter, dated 11 September, was written by Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

They wrote that they believe “the United States can and should play a role in advocating for her since her home countries are unable or unwilling to do so”, NBC News reported

Tsurkov, associated with the New Lines Institute and pursuing her doctorate at Princeton University, vanished in March and was last spotted in Baghdad's Karrada district. 

She regularly engaged with local sources, journalists, and scholars in Iraq and Syria and was an active member of a group championing women journalists and analysts in the area.

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In July, Al-Rabiaa, an Iraqi TV station, broadcasted CCTV footage that seemed to display Tsurkov, who travelled to Iraq using her Russian passport, stepping into what looked like the Ridha Alwan coffee shop in Karrada.

The New York Times reported that she was allegedly kidnapped by the Kataeb Hezbollah militia upon exiting the cafe.

A Kataeb Hezbollah representative seemed to suggest they weren't behind her disappearance.

In the letter, Booker and Menendez said they were gravely concerned and called on the administration “to use our close and abiding relationship with Iraq to raise Elizabeth’s abduction and call for her release at every opportunity and level”. 

The senators called on the State Department to brief their members on the case within 30 days. 

A State Department spokesperson told NBC News: “We won’t comment on intended actions by members of Congress. As we have previously stated, we condemn her abduction and are closely tracking this case. For privacy and security reasons, we have nothing further at this time.”

Last week, Tsurkov’s sister urged the US government to leverage its power to secure her release. In an interview with The Associated Press, she said, “The current level of pressure is unsatisfactory. It’s just not enough.”

“My sister is languishing at the hands of this terror organisation. And it’s been almost six months.”

Middle East Eye reached out to Booker and Menendez but did not hear back by the time of publication.

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