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Audio Offers Gruesome Details of Jamal Khashoggi Killing, Turkish Official Says

ISTANBUL — His killers were waiting when Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. They severed his fingers and later beheaded and dismembered him, according to details from audio recordings described by a senior Turkish official on Wednesday.

Mr. Khashoggi was dead within minutes, and within two hours the killers were gone, the recordings suggested.

The leaking of such details, on the same day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was visiting Turkey, reflected an escalation of pressure by the Turkish government on Saudi Arabia and the United States for answers on the fate of Mr. Khashoggi, a prominent dissident journalist who wrote for The Washington Post.

Fifteen days after he entered the consulate in Istanbul and was never seen coming out, the Saudis have yet to give an explanation.

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.

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.

[Read about the agents who also have been seen in the crown prince’s security detail.]

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.

“Do this outside. You will put me in trouble,” Mr. al-Otaibi, the consul, told them, according to the Turkish official and a report in the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, both citing 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.

As they cut off Mr. Khashoggi’s head and dismembered his body, a doctor of forensics who had been brought along for the dissection and disposal had some advice for the others, according to the senior Turkish official.

Listen to music, he told them, as he put on headphones himself. That was what he did to ease the tension when doing such work, the official said, describing the contents of the audio recording.

Such information would not have been disclosed in Turkey without the consent of the government. Turkish media outlets and newspapers are closely controlled: They are either government-controlled or owned by pro-government business executives. Censors are often present in newsrooms, and reporters and editors take close instructions from officials in the presidency.

The Turkish leaks implicating Saudi officials in the Khashoggi case have followed a distinctive pattern, beginning quickly after his disappearance. The leaks stopped as diplomatic steps to address the matter escalated: King Salman of Saudi Arabia called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and sent a high-level delegation while President Trump suggested that he was taking the accusations seriously and sent Mr. Pompeo to Saudi Arabia for answers.

But the leaks appeared to resume on Wednesday after Saudi leaders repeated their denials of involvement to Mr. Pompeo, and Mr. Trump defended the crown prince as having been unfairly accused.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said the administration had requested access to recorded evidence from the Turkish authorities “if it exists” and that it “probably does.” Mr. Trump also said he expected to get a full report from Mr. Pompeo when he returned.

Source: NYT > World

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