The body of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi was cut into pieces after he was killed two weeks ago at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a Turkish official told CNN on Tuesday.
The claim, which was first made to the New York Times earlier in the investigation into Khashoggi’s fate, comes after Turkish officials searched the consulate for nine hours on Monday night. The Turkish official would not comment on the disposal method for the body.
Turkish officials have said privately that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate on October 2 after he arrived to obtain papers that would have allowed him to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. Saudi Arabia has previously insisted he left the building alive, but Cengiz says she never saw him again.
Turkish authorities believe 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on October 2 were connected to the disappearance — and possible murder — of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkish officials have provided CNN with passport scans of seven men they suspect to have been part of the alleged Saudi hit team. The passport scans were taken on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
One of the passport scans appears to belong to Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi, listed as the head of forensic medicine at the Saudi Ministry of Interior. Another member of the group identified by Turkish official media and appearing in the alleged passport scans is Muhammad Saad al-Zahrani, who has appeared on Saudi state TV alongside Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Sabah, a pro-government private newspaper in Turkey, last week listed 15 names alongside photographs of men who authorities believe were flown into Istanbul from Riyadh. Eight of the 15 were identified by state news Anadolu Agency.
Two sources familiar with the investigation confirmed to CNN that the 15 men listed by Sabah were of interest in the ongoing criminal investigation launched by Turkish prosecutors.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Tuesday said Turkish investigators were looking into “toxic” and “painted over material” as part of their inquiry.
“My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over,” Erdogan told reporters.
CNN saw a cleaning crew enter the main consulate building on Monday before Turkish officials, including a forensics team, arrived to begin their investigation.
Turkish investigators were expected to carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence in Istanbul later on Tuesday. CCTV footage, which has served as a focal point in the investigations, showed vehicles moving from the consulate building to the nearby Consul General’s residence on October 2.
The semiofficial Anadolu news agency said Saudi’s Istanbul Consul General, Mohammed Otaibi, left the country on Tuesday.
On Friday, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN that Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that showed Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate.
The evidence, which was described to the source by a Western intelligence agency, showed there had been an assault and a struggle inside the consulate. There is also evidence of the moment that Khashoggi was killed, the source said.
Saudi Arabia has been under intense international pressure to explain Khashoggi’s apparent death, which has created a diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and the West.
US President Donald Trump dispatched US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as sources told CNN that the kingdom was preparing to acknowledge that Khashoggi died at the consulate in Istanbul as a result of an interrogation that went wrong. The sources said the interrogation was intended to lead to his enforced return to Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo will fly to Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.