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Extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for an explosion outside a school in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Thursday killed at least eight people, including school children, witnesses say.

The blast sent a cloud of smoke above a busy part of Mogadishu during the morning rush hour. The blast covered part of the school, with emergency workers looking through the collapsed roof beams and wooden benches for victims.

The AP reports eight people were killed and 17 others wounded, citing Police spokesman Abdifatah Adam Hassan.

“This is a tragedy,” said Abdulkadir Adan of the Amin ambulance service, which rushed people to a hospital.

Al-Shabab in a statement carried by its Andalus radio said it targeted Western officials being escorted by the African Union peacekeeping convoy. But a witness, Hassan Ali, told the AP that a private security company was escorting the officials and said he saw four of the security personnel wounded.

The attack has come at a time where Somalia is faced with major questions about its political and security future. The AU peacekeeping force was meant to withdraw from the country, but its mission could be extended amid concerns that Somali forces are not ready to assume responsibility for security.

The al-Qaida-linked group controls large parts of rural Somalia and continues to aggravate efforts at rebuilding peace and stability the Horn of Africa nation after three decades of conflict.

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