Ashgabat, 15 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has said that 80 percent of the senior leadership of the country's National Security Committee (KNB) has been removed from office on suspicion of abuse of power and other legal violations. In remarks broadcast overnight on state television, Niyazov told a cabinet meeting that abuses in the KNB were "enormous."
Yesterday, Niyazov dismissed KNB Chairman Mukhammed Nazarov and replaced him with Interior Minister Poran Berdyev.
Addressing yesterday's cabinet meeting, Berdyev said investigators have found evidence of links between KNB officials and criminal gangs specializing in drug trafficking.
Niyazov pledged that reforms in the security agency will continue. He also said the KNB, Turkmenistan's successor to the KGB, will no longer be allowed to interfere in the life of citizens and in the activities of private companies.
Niyazov, who has run his nation of 5 million since 1985, brooks no opposition, and who enjoys the official title of Turkmenbashi or "Head of the Turkmen," has reshuffled many secret police, military, and judiciary officials in March (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report"