The Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia in Iraq appeared to imply that it was not behind the kidnapping of Russian-Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov in a statement on Thursday in which it said that it would make an effort to discover her whereabouts.
The movement additionally accused Tsurkov of being connected with Israel's security services in the statement.
"The recognition by the prime minister of the Zionist entity of the existence of a captured Israeli security element in Iraq is a very dangerous indicator that must be considered and dealt with carefully and firmly," said the Kataib Hezbollah militia. "The competent security services must uncover the networks associated with this entity and bring them to justice."
"In our role in Kataib Hezbollah, we will make a double effort to find out the fate of the Zionist captive or captives in Iraq in service of the public interest and to learn more about the intentions of this criminal gang and who facilitates their movements in a country that prohibits and criminalizes dealing with them."
The statement on Thursday was the militia's first comment on the matter since the Prime Minister's Office announced on Wednesday that Tsurkov had been held captive in Iraq by Kataib Hezbollah since March and that efforts were continuing to get her released.
Tzurkov entered Iraq on her Russian passport to do research for her PhD at Princeton University, a senior diplomatic source said, and she has likely traveled to Lebanon and Syria as well.
Magazine Tsurkov contributed to says academic 'is not a Zionist'
In an appeal to the US government to help release Tsurkov, New Lines Magazine, where Tsurkov was a contributor, wrote on Wednesday that "Somewhat ironically, Liz, who some claim was kidnapped for being the “Zionist enemy,” is not a Zionist at all," noting that the researcher is "a fierce critic of Israeli national security policy."
"It is unclear whether her kidnappers actually believe she is the enemy or merely useful, but what is clear is that she has many friends from the region," wrote New Lines Magazine, adding that Tsurkov is an "outspoken critic" of the most likely parties involved in negotiating her release: Israel, Iran, and Russia.