WASHINGTON — The United States forcefully condemned Tuesday the Islamist militant group Shebab's attack in Somalia, where more than 70 people were killed in a car bombing.

Those killed in the "despicable and cowardly act" included students taking taking an exam in hopes of getting a scholarships to study abroad, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

The Shebab "has shown its utter disregard for human life and human dignity by carrying out terrorist attacks, brutalizing the Somali people, and disrupting and denying humanitarian aid to millions in need," Carney said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the "vicious" attack, describing it as a "cowardly act of terrorism" that "again demonstrates al-Shabaab's complete disregard for human life and Somalia's future."

The Shebab has "murdered the very people they claim to want to protect," Clinton said.

"Our condolences go out to the families, friends, and loved ones of the victims," she added.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the bombing showed Shebab's "complete disregard for human life."

"Clearly they don't care about the Somali people," she said.

A suicide bomber drove an explosives-lade vehicle into a compound housing four government ministries in Mogadishu on Tuesday, causing a massive explosion that killed more than 70 people in the deadliest attack by Somalia's Shebab rebels in their near five-year insurgency.

The suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the compound housing four ministries at a strategic crossroads, two months after the Al Qaeda-linked rebels dismantled all their positions in the capital.