MOGADISHU (AP) — Witnesses said that a large explosion occurred outside a Somalia school on Thursday, killing at least eight people. Al-Shabab, an extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Large parts of rural Somalia are controlled by an al-Qaida-linked organization, which continues to block efforts to rebuild the Horn of Africa nation.

A plume of smoke was sent above Mogadishu’s busy morning rush hour. Emergency workers looked through the collapsed roof beams to see the wooden benches and school was destroyed.

Abdifatah Adam Hassan, a spokesperson for the police, stated that eight people had been killed and 17 were wounded.

Abdulkadir Adan, Amin’s ambulance service, said that “this is a tragedy.” He rushed the victims to a hospital.

There were fewer casualties than expected, as Thursday was part of the weekend for Somalia, an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

Al-Shabab, in a statement released by its Andalus radio, stated that it was targeting Western officials who were being escorted to the African Union peacekeeping convoy. Hassan Ali, a witness to the incident, said that four security personnel were injured and that a private company was escorting them.

This attack took place as Somalia is facing major security and political questions. Although the AU peacekeeping force was supposed to leave Somalia, it could extend its mission due to concerns that Somali forces may not be ready to take responsibility for security. In early 2012, the U.S. declared that its troop withdrawal from Somalia was complete.

The long-delayed presidential election was supposed to be held in February, but it now appears that it will be held next year.