Turkish Official Says Audio Recordings Containing Gruesome Details Confirm Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Was Tortured and Killed

Turkish forensic and investigation officers at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday.
Yasin Akgul/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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.”

More than two weeks after Mr. Khashoggi entered the consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document for his coming wedding, the Saudis have yet to explain his failure to emerge.

Top Saudi officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in Mr. Khashoggi’s 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.

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SOURCE: New York Times, David D. Kirkpatrick and Carlotta Gall