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Pompeo Is In Turkey Looking For Answers To Khashoggi's Disappearance


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Turkey today, right after a visit to Saudi Arabia. Pompeo was sent by the Trump administration to try and find out what happened to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The writer disappeared after entering Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi had been critical of the Saudi government, and many people believe he was killed by Saudi agents. But the Saudis so far are denying any knowledge. And President Trump so far seems to be taking them at their word. NPR's Peter Kenyon is with us now from Istanbul. Hi, Peter.


KING: So Secretary of State Pompeo was on something of a fact-finding mission here. What did he learn or not learn in these meetings in Riyadh and in Turkey?

KENYON: Well, if he learned anything new from the Saudis, there's been no public discussion of that so far. He did say Riyadh is committed to a full, transparent investigation. The Saudis, as you note, deny any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance. Their stated position is still that he left the consulate freely within an hour of arriving, and they don't know where he is.

There are, however, these multiple media accounts reporting the Saudis were preparing to acknowledge Khashoggi died in the consulate during questioning. Now, in Turkey, Pompeo certainly got a very different story. Turkish investigators have said they have audio-video evidence of Khashoggi's killing and dismemberment. Some more gruesome details are coming out today. After the meeting today, Turkey's foreign minister wouldn't comment on those media reports, but he said a full investigation will be conducted.

KING: Well, we know that Turkish authorities are looking hard. I mean, they've searched the consulate where Khashoggi disappeared two weeks ago. Now we're hearing that those same authorities are waiting for approval to search the Saudi consul's residence. What are they hoping to find?

KENYON: Well, police barricades did go up around the consul general's residence last night. Journalists were waiting outside, but the investigators didn't show up. Turkey's foreign minister says today they were waiting for final permission. They are expecting the search to happen today. The search of the consulate building Monday did yield evidence that Khashoggi was killed inside the building. At least, that's what an official tells the Associated Press.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the investigators are looking for traces of toxic materials. He also said some surfaces at the consulate had been painted over, suggesting a possible effort to conceal evidence.

KING: Oh, wow. Peter, do you have a sense of whether this incident is being perceived differently in Turkey than it is in Saudi Arabia?

KENYON: I think that's pretty clear, very different versions of the story playing out. Here in Turkey, we're getting more and more details coming out based on this audio-video evidence Turkish investigators claim to have of the killing - reportedly, now, including the voice of the Saudi consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi. He left Turkey yesterday, which the foreign minister of Turkey criticized. Meanwhile, the Saudi media has been filled with stories of conspiracy theories, some blaming Qatar and international attempts to make Saudi Arabia look bad. So quite different visions of that.

KENYON: Peter, lastly, The New York Times is reporting today that several Saudis who are thought linked to Khashoggi's disappearance are part of the Saudi crown prince's security detail. Now, if that turns out to be true, that would certainly hurt the Saudi story about what happened, wouldn't it?

KENYON: It would certainly complicate any efforts to insulate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from any of the fallout from this alleged killing. The Times article links four of the 15 Saudis who arrived in Istanbul the same day Khashoggi disappeared - and left that same night - to the crown prince, either as bodyguard, part of his entourage, or in some other capacity. And also a government forensics expert has - also problematic for this exclamation - explanation for - that this might have been an accident. The Saudis themselves, we should note, again, have not publicly advanced this accidental death theory yet. Whether they do is something we're watching for.

KING: A lot of questions. NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Thanks, Peter.

KENYON: Thanks, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.