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Turkey denies giving recording of Khashoggi's death to Pompeo

Officials expanded their investigation to two new locations, a police source told NBC News.
Image: Turkish forensic search for evidence at the garage of Saudi Arabia's Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi
Turkish forensic search for evidence at the garage of Saudi Arabia's consul general on Wednesday in Istanbul. Ozan Kose / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

ISTANBUL — A senior Turkish official on Friday denied reports that America's top diplomat was given an audio recording capturing the killing of Saudi Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

"Turkey has not given a voice recording to Pompeo or any other American official," Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who held emergency meetings in Saudi Arabia and Turkey earlier this week.

Cavusoglu made the comments after ABC News reported that Secretary Pompeo had heard an alleged audio recording of Khashoggi being tortured and killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, citing a senior Turkish official. A State Department spokesperson also denied that Pompeo had heard an audio recording or seen a transcript.

Cavusoglu, who spoke to reporters during a trip to Albania, went on to pledge that results of the ongoing investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance would be shared with "the whole world in a transparent way."

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump cast doubt on a leaked recording, telling reporters he was “not sure yet that it exists,” but that if it does, the U.S. had asked Turkey to share it.

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia's putative leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Multiple government officials told NBC News Thursday U.S. intelligence agencies investigating the journalist's killing believe it's inconceivable that the crown prince had no connection to his death, but still have no "smoking gun" evidence that he ordered Khashoggi killed.

A Turkish police source with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News on Thursday that they have expanded their investigation to two new locations, the Belgrad Forest on the outskirts of Istanbul and Yalova, a Turkish city, approximately 55 miles from Istanbul.

The source says investigators have CCTV footage of Saudi diplomatic vehicles in these two areas after Khashoggi's disappearance. Police believe these areas could be the dumping ground for Khashoggi’s remains, or at least provide clues to his body’s whereabouts, they added.

Trump said Thursday that the U.S. is awaiting the completion of a Saudi investigation into the disappearance of Khashoggi before deciding on an official response.

Asked whether the Saudi journalist was dead, Trump said it was likely. "It certainly looks that way to me," he said.

Pompeo told reporters after a meeting with Trump on Thursday he thinks the Saudis should be given a few more days to complete their investigation so that the U.S. can make an informed decision about how or if it should respond to Khashoggi's case.

Saudi Arabia has so far denied any involvement in Khashoggi's killing, which has caused an international outcry and strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the West. Officials from the kingdom have also responded furiously to what they termed "threats" of economic or political pressure after Trump warned of "severe punishment" over the weekend.

While longstanding Saudi-U.S. ties suffered under the administration of President Barack Obama, Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, have embraced the king and crown prince as close and crucial partners in the administration's Middle East strategy. Trump went to Saudi Arabia in his first foreign trip as president.

Aziz Akyavas reported from Istanbul; Yuliya Talmazan from London.