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.
More than two weeks 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.
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 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.
President Trump said his administration has asked Turkish officials for an audio tape that they claim to have as evidence of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist.Published OnOct. 17, 2018CreditCreditImage by Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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.
Mr. Trump said 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 just want to find out what’s happening,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
“I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does,” he said, adding: “I’ll have a full report on that” when Mr. Pompeo returns late Wednesday or early Thursday. “That’s going to be the first question I ask.”
Asked about his own statements questioning Saudi responsibility for the killing, Mr. Trump said, “I’m not giving cover at all.”
He then added that Saudi Arabia “has been a very important ally,” and noted that the kingdom was spending billions of dollars on American weapons. “When I went there, they committed to purchase $450 billion worth of things, and $110 billion worth of military,” the president said, claiming that the orders were the biggest in the history of the world.
Matthew Rosenberg and Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting from Washington, and Rick Gladstone from New York.