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Turkey begins search of Saudi consul-general residence after delay

Saudi investigators already entered the building ahead of the Turkish team
Saudi Arabia had delayed Turkish investigators claiming that the consul general's family was still living in the building (AFP)

ISTANBUL, Turkey  - Turkish police on Wednesday began a hotly anticipated search at the resident of the Saudi consul-general in Istanbul, hours after a Saudi investigation team entered the building. 

The police search began as pressure mounts on Saudi Arabia to provide answers over the alleged murder of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

A team of a dozen Turkish police and prosecutors, including forensic experts in white overalls, entered the residence of Mohammed al-Otaibi, a day after he flew out of Istanbul for Riyadh. 

Speaking to reporters, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkish police would be "searching the Saudi consul-general's official residence and its cars today".

"They [Saudis] unfortunately didn't want us to search the residences last night on account of the fact that his family was inside," Cavusoglu told reporters.  

"We have representatives of our foreign ministry in Istanbul who are in talks with the Saudis to help the prosecutors


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Cavusoglu's comments follow a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara's Esenboga airport on Wednesday morning.

He added that Pompeo and Erdogan discussed Khashoggi's case, Manbij and other bilateral issues. Erdogan used the meeting to repeat calls for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen to Turkey and to discuss the threat of the Gulen movement. 

The meeting, attended by Cavusoglu, Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and Erdogan's spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin, lasted 40 minutes.

US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey and Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale were also present at the meeting with Erdogan.  

Following the meeting with Erdogan, Pompeo also had a separate conversation with Cavusoglu which lasted 35 minutes. 

Turkish crime scene investigators carried out an eight-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 Oct. 2.

"The consul's behaviour and approach drew reaction after Khashoggi disappeared," Cavusoglu said - criticising the way the consul behaved in a Reuter's 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." 

Speaking to reporters en route to Turkey from Saudi Arabia, Pompeo said the Saudis were planning to "conduct a thorough, complete, transparent investigation." 

"I don’t want to talk about any of the facts. They didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way," said Pompeo. 

His emergency meetings come after Middle East Eye revealed new details of Khashoggi's murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Monday evening. 

Seven minutes to kill Khashoggi 

A Turkish source who listened to the audio recording told MEE that Khashoggi's murder lasted approximately seven minutes. 

In the recording, Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, identified as the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department, was one of the 15-member squad who arrived in Ankara earlier that day on a private jet.

Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive, the Turkish source said.

As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same.

“When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,” Tubaigy was recorded as saying, the source told MEE.

To date, Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving. However, they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their claim and say that video cameras at the consulate were not recording at the time.

AFP and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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