18th October 2018 - Turkish crime-scene investigators searched the home of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul yesterday in the disappearance of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, and a pro-government newspaper published a gruesome account of the journalist’s alleged slaying.

As Saudi Arabia’s green national flag flapped overhead, forensics teams entered the residence, only 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the consulate where Khashoggi vanished Oct. 2 while trying to pick up paperwork to get married. It was the second-such extraordinary search of a site considered under international law to be sovereign Saudi territory after investigators spent hours in the consulate earlier this week.

The account published in the Yeni Safak newspaper alleged that Saudi officials cut off Khashoggi’s fingers and then decapitated him at the consulate as his fiancee waited outside.

Hours later, The Washington Post published a column by Khashoggi it said it received after he was reported missing, in which he pointed to the muted international response to ongoing abuses against journalists by governments in the Middle East.

“As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate,” Khashoggi wrote. He added: “The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power.”

The searches and the leaks in Turkish media have ensured the world’s attention remains focused on what happened to Khashoggi, who went into a self-imposed exile in the U.S. over the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It also put further strains on the relationship between the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, and its main security guarantor, the United States, as tensions with Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East remain high.

Flying back home after a visit to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained positive about an ongoing Saudi probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance, but he stressed that answers are needed.  ”Sooner’s better than later for everyone,” Pompeo said.

Turkish police officers prepare to enter the residence of the Saudi consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi to conduct a search after the disappearance and alleged slaying of writer Jamal Khashoggi

Turkish police officers prepare to enter the residence of the Saudi consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi to conduct a search after the disappearance and alleged slaying of writer Jamal Khashoggi

The search of the consul’s residence came 15 days after Khashoggi’s disappearance — and after police apparently thought they would be able to conduct the search on Tuesday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saudi officials had halted the earlier search, claiming that Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi’s family was still there.

Crime-scene technicians wore white coveralls, gloves and shoe covers entering the residence. It wasn’t immediately clear what they hoped to find there, although surveillance video had showed diplomatic cars moving between the consulate and the residence nearly two hours after Khashoggi walked into the diplomatic post.

Turkey’s private DHA news agency, without citing a source, said police wanted to inspect a “water well” in the garden of the residence.  Investigators also re-entered the consulate last night.

A high-level Turkish official previously told The Associated Press that police found “certain evidence” of Khashoggi’s slaying at the consulate, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

The report by the newspaper Yeni Safak cited what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi’s slaying. It described the recording as offering evidence that a Saudi team immediately accosted the 60-year-old journalist after he entered the consulate.

Al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: “Do this outside; you’re going to get me in trouble,” the newspaper reported.  One of the Saudis reportedly replied: “Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia.”

Security services in Turkey have used pro-government media to leak details of Khashoggi’s case, adding to the pressure on the kingdom. President Donald Trump, who initially came out hard on the Saudis over the disappearance but since has backed off, said Wednesday that the U.S. wanted Turkey to turn over any audio or video recording it had of Khashoggi’s alleged killing “if it exists.”

Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment in recent days, including yesterday. Al-Otaibi left Turkey on Tuesday, Turkish state media reported.