ST. PAUL-A former St. Catherine University student accused of starting fires on the college's St. Paul campus now faces federal terrorism charges.
Tnuza Jamal Hassan, 19, of Minneapolis was charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court with one count each of arson, making false statements to the FBI and attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, according to a news release issued by the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis.
Hassan, who is also facing arson charges in Ramsey County District Court, allegedly set eight fires in seven buildings on the private Catholic university's campus last month. No one was injured.
Last fall, while she was still a student at St. Kate's, Hassan was interviewed by FBI agents about a letter she allegedly sent to two fellow students. The letter encouraged them to "join the jihad in fighting" and to "join Al Qaeda, Taliban, or Al Shabaab," according to the U.S. attorney's office news release. Hassan denied writing the letter and told the agents she did not know how it came to be delivered to the students, the news release said.
On the morning of Jan. 17, a series of fires was reported in several buildings on the St. Kate's campus. St. Paul police and firefighters responded to the campus about 11:40 a.m., and Hassan was arrested later that afternoon. Security cameras filmed her entering several university buildings carrying a plastic bag, which was later found to contain matches, police said.
The largest fire was in a residential dormitory that also houses a day care; there were 33 children and eight adults in the building at the time, according to police.
Hassan allegedly told investigators she set the fires because she had "been reading about the U.S. military destroying schools in Iraq or Afghanistan and she felt that she should do exactly the same thing."
"You guys are lucky that l don't know how to build a bomb because l would have done that," she added, according to the charges.
Hassan remains in custody at the Ramsey County Jail.