05/07/07 (B402) BBC / Les militaires somaliens protestent pour obtenir le paiement de leurs soldes et des arrièrés. Somali soldiers protest over pay (En Anglais – Info lectrice)

Somali government soldiers have staged protests in two towns to demand payment after going seven months without any wages.

There was an exchange of gunfire in a barracks in Jowhar, near the capital, but there were no casualities.

Angry soldiers have taken control of a police station in the central town of Beledweyne.

The government is trying to assert its control after ousting Islamists from the capital, with Ethiopian backing.

Somalia has not had an affective national government for 16 years, since when rival militias have been battling for control of different areas.

Tax drive

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb has gone off near a convoy carrying Mogadishu mayor, and former warlord, Muhammad Dheere, although no-one was hurt.

Such attacks occur on an almost daily basis and are usually blamed on Islamist insurgents and fighters from the Hawiye clan – the largest in Mogadishu.

Hawiye leaders say they will not attend a reconciliation conference due to be held next month.

The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says that until the government took control of the capital last December, soldiers were given occasional payments, even if they have not been paid regular salaries for many years.

But our reporter says even these have not been paid this year.

Bodyguards for the president and prime minister have, however, been paid, he says.

The government, chosen in 2004 after more than two years of peace talks in neighbouring Kenya, is trying to generate some revenue by asking companies to pay taxes.

Some businessmen, especially in telecommunications, are thriving despite the lawlessness – partly because they have not had to pay any taxes for so long.