MINNEAPOLIS – A Minnesota woman accused of encouraging two fellow college students to join a jihad months before she allegedly set several fires on campus was charged Wednesday with a federal terrorism count.
Tnuza Jamal Hassan, 19, of Minneapolis was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida, one count of lying to the FBI and one federal arson count. She also faces a state arson charge in connection with the Jan. 17 fires on the campus of St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
Her attorneys had no comment Wednesday. Hassan remained in custody.
Hassan is a former St. Catherine student. According to a federal indictment, she attempted to provide material support to al-Qaida on Sept. 19 by trying to provide "personnel" to the terrorist group. Additional information about the basis for that charge is unclear and the indictment does not elaborate.
The indictment also said Hassan wrote and delivered a letter to two fellow students in March in an attempt to encourage them to "join the jihad in fighting" and to join al-Qaida, the Taliban or al-Shabab. When asked about that letter on Sept. 22, she told FBI agents that she didn't write it, didn't know who wrote it and didn't know how it was delivered to her peers.
According to state court documents, Hassan set fires on campus in January because she was angry about U.S. military actions overseas. No one was injured in the fires, but one was set in a dormitory that houses a day care. A sprinkler system prevented that fire from spreading beyond a chair to the day care center, where 33 children and eight adults were present.
The state criminal complaint said Hassan admitted she set the fires because she read about the U.S. military destroying schools in Iraq or Afghanistan and she wanted to do the same thing.
"Hassan said she wanted the school to burn to the ground and that her intent was to hurt people," the state complaint said. "She told the police and fire investigators 'You guys are lucky that I don't know how to build a bomb because I would have done that.'"
Hassan was an English major who last enrolled at St. Catherine's in the fall 2017 semester but is not currently a student, the school said.