Audio Offers Gruesome Details Of Khashoggi Killing: Turkish Official

ISTANBUL — Saudi agents were waiting when Jamal Khashoggi walked into their country’s consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. Mr. Khashoggi was dead within minutes, beheaded, dismembered, his fingers severed, and within two hours the killers were gone, according to details from audio recordings described by a senior Turkish official on Wednesday.

The government of Turkey let out these and other leaks about the recordings on Wednesday, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Ankara, in an escalation of pressure on both Saudi Arabia and the United States for answers about Mr. Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi dissident journalist who lived in Virginia and wrote for The Washington Post.

The new leaks, which were also splashed in lurid detail across a pro-government newspaper, came a day after Mr. Pompeo and the Trump administration had appeared to accept at face value the promises of the Saudi rulers to conduct their own investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance — regardless of Turkish assertions that senior figures in the royal court had ordered his killing.

As the Saudis and the Americans tried to put the crisis behind them, the brutality described in the leaks served as a reminder of why Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance has triggered an international backlash more severe than countless mass killings or rights violations.

Mr. Trump, for his part, pushed back by questioning the Turkish claims, telling reporters on Wednesday that the United States had asked for copies of any audio or video evidence of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing that Turkish authorities may possess — “if it exists.”

“I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, adding: “I’ll have a full report on that” when Mr. Pompeo returned. “That’s going to be the first question I ask.”

American intelligence officials say they have growing circumstantial evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed was involved in the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi, who entered the consulate in Istanbul more than two weeks ago to obtain a document for his coming wedding and did not emerge.

[American officials are becoming convinced that Crown Prince Mohammed had a role in the disappearance.]

Top Saudi officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in the disappearance — denials that they repeated to Mr. Pompeo when he visited Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a friend of Mr. Khashoggi’s, has yet to publicly accuse the Saudis of abducting or killing him, or to make public any evidence to support such accusations.

But Turkish officials on Wednesday reiterated their conclusion that a team of 15 Saudi agents, some with ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was waiting for Mr. Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate the moment he arrived, at about 1:15 p.m. on Oct. 2.

After he was shown into the office of the Saudi consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, the agents seized Mr. Khashoggi almost immediately and began to beat and torture him, eventually cutting off his fingers, the senior Turkish official said, describing the audio recordings.

Whether Mr. Khashoggi was killed before his fingers were removed and his body dismembered could not be determined.

But the consul was present and objected, the official said. “Do this outside. You will put me in trouble,” Mr. Otaibi told the agents, according to the Turkish official and a report in the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak. Both cited audio recordings said to have been obtained by Turkish intelligence.

“If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up,” one of the agents replied, according to both the official and the newspaper.

A top Saudi doctor of forensics had been brought along for the dissection and disposal of the body — an addition to the team that Turkish officials have called evidence of premeditation. And as the agents cut off Mr. Khashoggi’s head and dismembered his body, the doctor had some advice, according to the senior Turkish official.

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