Turkish Paper Publishes Gruesome Details From Audio of Saudi Journalist's Murder

Saudi officer with close ties to MBS 'in charge of the deadly Khashoggi op'

In this Jan. 29, 2011, file photo, Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks on his cellphone at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File

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Details from audio recordings published in the Turkish news media on Wednesday appear to describe how Jamal Khashoggi's killers severed his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him.

The reported details of the gruesome murder were published in the pro-government daily newspaper Yeni Safakon the same day U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was visiting Turkey.

Turkey searched the Saudi consul's residence in Istanbul on Wednesday in connection with the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkey's foreign minister said after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Turkish officials have said they believe the journalist was murdered and his body removed, an allegation the Saudis have strongly denied.

A senior Turkish official confirmed to the New York Times the details that were published in the pro-government daily newspaper Yeni Safak

CNN, however, reported that the Saudi government is preparing to say Khashoggi died during an interrogation that went wrong. The report, which was attributed to two unnamed sources, said one of the sources told them the intention was to abduct Khashoggi and that it had not been authorized by the Saudi government.

A later report though, claimed Khashoggi's killing in Istanbul was organized by a high-ranking officer with the General Intelligence Presidency, Saudi Arabia's main intelligence service, three sources close to the investigation told CNN late on Tuesday.

CNN added that "one of those sources described the officer as close to the inner circle of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman," who oversees much of Saudi Arabia security and intelligence services.

"Several officials CNN spoke with said the mission could not have happened without the direct knowledge of the 33-year-old crown prince," continued the report.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican close to U.S. President Donald Trump, accused the crown prince on Tuesday of ordering Khashoggi's murder, calling Bin Salman a "rogue crown prince." Graham also threatened to pursue sanctions against him.

Khashoggi was a U.S. resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post and was critical of the Saudi government, calling for reforms.

Turkish police had been expected to search the Saudi consul's Istanbul residence on Tuesday. They did not do so, officers at the scene said later, because Saudi officials were not able to join. Hours earlier, the consul general left Turkey for Riyadh.

"Yesterday evening, unfortunately, police could not search the Saudi consul's residence. The Saudis claimed that the consul's family was inside," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters after meeting Pompeo.

"We hope the police will enter to the residence today. We have said before that Saudi Arabia must cooperate with us in every aspect without delay."

Cavusoglu, who said the search would extend to the consul's vehicles, said the consul was free to travel home and had not been deported.

He also said talks with Pompeo were "beneficial and fruitful." Pompeo was on a brief visit to Turkey after having met with the Saudi king, crown prince and foreign minister in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Turkish crime scene investigators carried out a nine-hour search of the consulate on Monday night in an investigation to look into what happened to Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2.

"The consul's behaviour and approach drew reaction after Khashoggi disappeared," Cavusoglu said - criticising the way the consul behaved in a Reuters tour of the consulate - "especially how he opened the cabinets saying 'look he is not here' as if mocking people, behaving disrespectfully. This was not right."