What is Al-Shabaab, and what does it want?

The brutal act comes just days after the Islamists ambushed a bus and sprayed bullets on those who failed to recite Quran verses.

The attacks reminded the world once again how brazen the group can be.

What does Al-Shabaab want? Here’s an explainer.

What is Al-Shabaab, and what does it want?

Al-Shabaab is a Somali group that the United States designated as a foreign terrorist organization in March 2008. It wants to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The group has been blamed for attacks in Somalia that have killed international aid workers, journalists, civilian leaders and African Union peacekeepers.

It has a history of striking abroad, too. Before admitting to the Kenya quarry attack, Al-Shabaab was responsible for the July 2010 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed more than 70 people, including a U.S. citizen, who had gathered at different locations to watch the broadcast of the World Cup Final soccer match.

How big is it?

The United States has supported U.N.-backed African forces fighting Al-Shabaab and strengthened its counterterrorism efforts against the group.

It has also donated millions of dollars in aid.

What is the status of Somalia’s government today?

In September 2012, Somali parliament members selected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the new president in a vote that marked a milestone for the nation, which had not had a stable central government since Barre’s overthrow 21 years earlier.

But that didn’t mean Al-Shabaab was calling it quits. In January 2013, French forces attempted to rescue a French intelligence commando held hostage in Somalia by the group. The raid left the soldier dead, another soldier missing and 17 Islamist fighters dead.

But there has been political progress in Somalia.

In January 2013, for the first time in more than two decades, the United States granted official recognition to the Somali government.

CNN’s Tim Lister, Barbara Starr, Paula Newton, David McKenzie and Elise Labott contributed to this report.