A Minnesota woman whom prosecutors said set fires at a Minnesota university out of anger because of U.S. military actions overseas was charged with terrorism Wednesday after she allegedly tried to assist a terrorist organization last year.
Tnuza Jamal Hassan, 19, was charged in federal court for attempting to provide material support to Al Qaeda, lying to the FBI and arson, Fox 9 reported. She was initially arrested Jan. 17 after she set eight fires in seven buildings on the St. Catherine University campus in St. Paul.
The Minneapolis woman admitted to investigators that she started the fires, which prosecutors said were sparked when she was “reading about the US military destroying schools in Iraq or Afghanistan and she felt that she should do exactly the same thing,” a criminal complaint read.
“Hassan said she wanted the school to burn to the ground and that her intent was to hurt people,” the complaint stated. “Hassan said this was that same thing that happened in ‘Muslim land’ and nobody cares if they get hurt, so why not do this?”
No one was injured in the campus fires.
Details about Hassan’s terrorism charge are unclear, but a federal indictment said she attempted to provide support to al Qaeda in September by trying to provide “personnel.”
The former English major is also accused of lying about writing a letter to her roommates in March, asking them “to join the jihad in fights,” and to “[j]oin al-Qaeda, Taliban, or Al Shabaab,” according to Fox 9.
Hassan also “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,'” the complaint said.
Hassan is being held at the Ramsey County Jail.
After her arrest, Hassan said she set the fires on campus in retaliation for the U.S. military’s actions in Muslim lands, according to a court document. When asked what she would do if released from custody but not allowed to leave the U.S. for a Muslim country, Hassan replied: “Then I have the right to do jihad,” according to a court document.
“The defendant espouses defiance to laws of the United States,” prosecutors wrote in the memorandum. “In assessing the nature and seriousness of harm to the community posed by her release, the defendant’s own recorded words speak chillingly to this issue.”
On Wednesday, federal authorities charged her with attempting to provide “personnel” to al-Qaeda, arson and making a false statement to the FBI.
In September last year, FBI agents interviewed Hassan about whether she authored and delivered a letter to two fellow students at St. Catherine in March 2017. Prosecutors allege the letter sought to encourage fellow students to “join the jihad in fighting” and to join al-Qaida, the Taliban or al-Shabab.
“Why would you live under a manmade law over the law of Allah,” Hassan wrote in the recruitment letter, which prosecutors say she admitted to writing.
Hassan, who has no prior criminal history, also wrote that she considers following the laws of a secular government as “blasphemy” and that Muslim who follows the laws of the United States “will go to hell.”