Tnuza Jamal Hassan

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Tnuza Jamal Hassan is a 19-year-old former student at St. Catherines University, in St. Paul, Minnesota, who is accused of setting a series of eight fires there, on the morning of January 17, 2018.[1][2][3][4][5] The fires were set over the course of several hours. No one was hurt, but one of the fires was set in a building that included a daycare center, and 33 children were evacuated.[6]

Prior to the arson incident

Hassan was born in the United States.[7]

She started attending St Catherine University, a small prestigious Roman Catholic University in her home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the fall of 2016.[7]

In March 2017 Hassan gave a letter to three fellow students, encouraging them to engage in Jihad.[7] The letter alarmed the receipients, who took the letter to campus security. Campus security forwarded her letter to Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In September 2017 Hassan tried to travel to Afghanistan.[7] Hassan tried to get to Afghanistan by traveling to a nearby country, and only then trying to get to Afghanistan. But authorities in Dubai detained her, on September 19, and returned her to the United States, because she lacked a visa.

The FBI interviewed Hassan on September 22.

Hassan and her mother, tried to leave the United States again, in December, ostensibly to travel to Ethiopia.[8]

While a student, Hassan had drafted and delivered a letter that is said to have espoused disturbingly radical muslim beliefs.[6][9] The Police say she described how her letter frightened her roommates, who forwarded it to campus security.[10] In February the Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged that they had interviewed Hassan about the letter in September, 2017.[11][12]

The FBI stated that Hassan denied any knowledge of the letter, which called for recepients to join Al Qaeda, the Taliban or Al Shabaab.[11][12][13]

Arson incident

Investigators would eventually conclude that Hassan had run away from home, around January 10, 2018, and was clandestinely living on campus, even though she was no longer a student at the University. On January 18, 2018, over the course of several hours, multiple fires were started on campus. The fires caused no injuries.[14] The fires were lightly reported until local crime reporters reading the charging documents realized that prosecutors were making a connection to terrorism.

Ramsay County Prosecutor Margaret Galvin described the charges Hassan faced in local courts, the most serious of which was first degree Arson.[9][15] According to newspaper accounts of the charging documents she said that after viewing the destruction of schools in Iraq and Syria, that she attributed to American military bombardment, she thought she should destroy schools in America.[6][16][17] The charging documents describe Hassan telling interrogators that she had hoped to burn the campus to the ground, and that it was fortunate for the University that she did not know how to build bombs, that she would have used bombs, if she had known how to construct them.

Galvin told reporters that law enforcement officials were looking into whether Hassan had an "international connection".[18] By January 2018 Hassan faced Federal charges.[19][8]

Ted Vezner, of the St Paul's Pioneer Press, reported trying and failing to get Federal law enforcement officials to go on record as to whether Hassan would face Federal charges.[9] She remains in custody. Bail was set at $100,000.[20] Her next hearing is set for February 28, 2019.[21]

ReBecca Koenig Roloff, the University's President, thanked law enforcement officials, and assured other muslims that the University recognized this was an "isolated incident", that should not trigger caution against other muslims.[22]

On February 7, 2018, Federal Prosecutors laid three charges against Hassan: Material Support for Terrorism; Arson; and lying to Law Enforcement officials.[11][12] Following the indictment the University's administration issued a statement informing the campus community that they had been cooperating with law enforcement officials in their investigation of the letter, but, at their request, they had kept the existence of the letter a secret.[23] Hassan pled not guilty.[24]

A February filing by law enforcement authorities revealed that they were investigating whether Hassan had left her family home a week or more prior to the arson incident, and had been hiding on the campus.[25] The University announced that the reports had triggered it to arrange for an independent third party to conduct an audit of the University's safety procedures.[26][27]

On February 17, 2018, CBS News quoted Jeffrey Ringel, a counter-terrorism expert formerly with the FBI, and currently with the Soufan Group.[7] He noted that, when Hassan had attempted to travel to Afghanistan, in September 2017, the FBI had stopped her, interrupted her journey, interviewed her. He noted she willingly confessed to planning to marry a warrior, and said she would become a suicide bomber. He stated, that, in his opinion, this confession should have been sufficient to lay charges against her then. He said he couldn't explain why she had been set free. The Ledger quoted Ron Hosko, another former FBI agent, who reminded the public that the extent of the FBI monitoring had not been made public.[28] The Ledger quoted Stephen Vladeck, a law professor specializing in Constitutional law and counter-terrorism issues, who pointed out law enforcement officials can't monitor every threat: “This is a circle that can’t be squared. We are never going to keep tabs on every single person who might one day pose a threat.”

On April 5, 2018, KSTP reported that after Hassan's lawyer had requested she be given house arrest.[29][30] On April 12, Federal prosecutors cited an FBI analysis of documents found on her cell phone, that stated it contained "Files of Concern".[31]


  1. Mara H. Gottfried (2018-01-17). "Former St. Kate’s student arrested after small fires set on campus". Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "Campus public safety officers worked with the police and fire departments to review security footage and identified a suspect entering various buildings. At about 1:30 p.m., the suspect was found in a lounge in Crandall Hall, a dorm. The woman, identified in a police report as Tnuza Jamal Hassan, was removed from campus at 2:35 p.m. and police arrested her on suspicion of first-degree arson." 
  2. Chao Xiong (2018-01-18). "Former student set fires on St. Catherine campus in retaliation against U.S. military intervention". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "No one was hurt in the incident that began about 11:40 a.m. with the first reported fire, and ended about 2 p.m. with Hassan’s arrest on campus. Ramsey County jail records show that she was arrested at the school’s Jeanne d’Arc Auditorium at 2004 Randolph Av." 
  3. Steve Karnowski (2018-01-19). "Prosecutors: Woman mad at US actions abroad set campus fires". ABC News (Minneapolis). Retrieved 2018-01-22. "A criminal complaint said Tnuza Jamal Hassan, 19, a former student at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, admitted to investigators that she started the fires on Wednesday, including one in a dormitory that housed a day care center. She's charged with first-degree arson." 
  4. John Gilmore (2018-01-21). "St. Kate’s: Is It Still Terrorism When Local Media Refuse To Use The Word?". Alpha News Minnesota. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "Hassan appears to be a serious terrorist. She allegedly told police that “You guys are lucky that I don’t know how to build a bomb because I would have done that.”" 
  5. Lukas Mikelionis (2018-01-23). "Woman mad at US actions abroad set campus fires, prosecutors say". Fox News. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "Hassan allegedly harbored radical ideas and wrote a letter to her roommates containing “radical ideas about supporting Muslims and bringing back the caliphate."" 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Child Porn to Pyromania: New Terror Cases in the US". Clarion Project. 2018-01-21. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "No one was hurt in the fires, however one of the fires was set in a building that housed a daycare center. Thirty-three children, eight adults and 10-15 students were evacuated from that building." 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Jeffrey Ringel (2018-02-17). "St. Catherine Arson Spree Shows Difficulty In Predicting Terror Attacks". CBS News (Minneapolis). Retrieved 2018-04-04. "'She confessed to wanting to join al-Qaida and took action to do it by traveling overseas. Unless there are other circumstances that I’m not aware of, I would have expected that she would’ve been arrested,' said Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI agent and Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisor who now works for a private security firm, the Soufan Group, and isn’t involved in Hassan’s case. 'I think she would’ve met the elements of a crime.'" 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Michael Oakes, Beth McDonough (2018-02-12). "Woman Accused in St. Kate's Arson Tried to Leave US to Join Terrorist Groups, Court Filing Says". KSTP. Retrieved 2018-05-01. "In the document filed ahead of an arraignment and detention hearing for 19-year-old Tnuza Jamal Hassan, the United States Attorney's Office in Minneapolis argues Hassan "presents an extraordinary danger to the community and a significant risk of flight and therefore should remain in custody pending trial."" 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Ted Vezner (2018-01-19). "‘You guys are lucky I don’t know how to build a bomb,’ Minn. arson suspect allegedly said". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Minneapolis office said he could not comment on whether federal authorities also were investigating the incident. A call to the United States District of Attorney’s Minnesota Office to inquire about whether Hassan might face federal charges was not returned." 
  10. Amy Rock (2018-01-22). "Former St. Kate’s Student Sets Campus Fires in Protest of U.S. Military: The former St. Kate’s student said she had been reading about the U.S. military destroying schools in the Middle East and wanted to do the same here". Campus Safety Magazine. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "Hassan wrote a letter to her roommates containing “radical ideas about supporting Muslims and bringing back the caliphate.” The roommates handed the letter over to campus security." 
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Kstp2018-02-07
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Mukhtar M. Ibrahim (2018-02-07). "19-year-old charged with arson, attempting to provide support to al-Qaida". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2018-02-13. "In September last year, FBI agents had 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 "[j]oin Al Qaeda, Taliban, or Al Shabaab."" 
  13. Brett Bachman (2018-02-07). "St. Catherine's arson suspect charged with supporting al-Qaeda". Fox News (St. Paul, Minnesota). Retrieved 2018-05-01. "The terrorism-related charges stem from a Sept. 19 letter Tnuza Jamal Hassan allegedly wrote and sent to fellow students at St. Catherine's asking them to "join the jihad in fighting," and to "[j]oin al-Qaeda, Taliban, or Al Shabaab," according to a release. In an interview with several FBI agents a few days later, officials say she denied ever writing or distributing the letter." 
  14. "St. Catherine's says Arsonist Responsible for Multiple Fires on Campus; Former Student In Custody". KSTP. 2018-01-18. Retrieved 2018-05-01. "St. Catherine's public safety department and a deputy St. Paul fire chief both said no injuries were reported." 
  15. Rebecca Omostiak (2018-01-20). "Suspect Identified Following Multiple Fires on St. Catherine Campus". KSTP. Retrieved 2018-05-01. "The school said it is believed she is a former student, but is not currently registered for classes." 
  16. Tad Vezner, Sarah Horner (2018-01-19). "‘You guys are lucky I don’t know how to build a bomb,’ St. Kate’s arson suspect allegedly said". Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "A former St. Catherine University student charged with setting fires on the college’s St. Paul campus told police she did it because she’d “been reading about the U.S. military destroying schools in Iraq or Afghanistan and she felt that she should do exactly the same thing,” according to a criminal complaint filed Friday." 
  17. "‘Muslim land’ retaliation fires set at Catholic university: ‘I don’t know how to build a bomb’". Washington Times. 2018-01-22. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "The complaint against Ms. Hassan states that she was motivated after reading stories of attacks on “Muslim land.”" 
  18. Nikita Vladimirov (2018-01-22). "Former student turns arsonist over US policy in ‘Muslim land’". Campus Reform. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "According to The Star Tribune, 19 year-old Tnuza Hassan allegedly set eight fires in seven buildings on campus last week, later telling authorities that her intention was to “burn [the school] to the ground” and to “hurt people.”" 
  19. Jay Kolls (2018-01-28). "Sources: FBI Investigating Woman Charged with Arson at St. Catherine". KSTP. Retrieved 2018-05-01. "Sources said the FBI became involved after several statements attributed to arson suspect Tnuza Hassan were included in a criminal complaint filed in district court by the Ramsey County Attorney's Office." 
  20. Steve Karnowski (2018-01-22). "Prosecutors: Woman mad at US actions abroad set campus fires". Post Bulletin (Minneapolis). Retrieved 2018-01-22. "Hassan was held Friday night in the Ramsey County Jail on $100,000 bail." 
  21. Ted Vezner, Sarah Horner (2018-01-19). "Former St. Paul college student charged with setting fires on campus". Duluth News Tribune. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "Hassan has no prior criminal record in Minnesota.She remained in custody Friday at the Ramsey County Jail, with bail set at $100,000. Her next court hearing is Feb. 28. She has not yet entered a plea." 
  22. ReBecca Koenig Roloff (2018-01-19). "Statement from the president". St Katherine University. Retrieved 2018-01-22. "We believe this was an isolated incident and are cooperating with law enforcement officials. Our top concern is our students and the campus community. We are proud to be an open and welcoming University that embraces diversity. As such, we strongly believe that one person does not represent an entire group, and we deeply value all Muslim members of our community." 
  23. "Arson Incident Update". St Katherine University. 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2018-02-13. 
  24. Farrah Fazal. "Terror Suspect Hassan Pleads Not Guilty, Remanded to Jail". KSTP. Retrieved 2018-05-01. "Prosecutors said Hassan became self-radicalized watching videos of American extremist al-Qaida preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki. His YouTube recruiting videos radicalized dozens of young men from the Twin Cities. YouTube took those videos down but not before prosecutors said the videos radicalized Hassan." 
  25. Tim Nelson (2018-02-14). "St. Kate's reviews security after ex-student's terror arrest". Minnesota Public Radio (St. Paul, Minnesota). Retrieved 2018-04-04. "The school said on its website that federal court filings include claims to the court that Tnuza Jamal Hassan, 19, may have "hid out on the campus" before she resurfaced about a month ago." 
  26. "Campus Safety Update re: Arson Incident". St Catherine University. 2018-02-13. Retrieved 2018-02-13. "These reports provided details from a memo in the filing about Hassan's travels and activities, including that she allegedly may have “hid out on the campus of St. Catherine University before she resurfaced” on January 17." 
  27. "St. Kate's to Seek External Assessment of Safety Procedures after Arson Case". KSTP. 2018-02-13. Retrieved 2018-04-04. "Reports that the woman accused of starting fires in several buildings last month at St. Catherine University may have hidden out on campus prior to the incident has caused the school to seek an external assessment of its safety procedures." 
  28. Amy Forlili (2018-02-17). "Minn. terror case shows challenge of predicting attacks". The Ledger (Minneapolis). Retrieved 2018-05-02. "Four months later, the 19-year-old was arrested for allegedly setting small fires on her former college campus in St. Paul in what prosecutors say was a self-proclaimed act of jihad. No one was hurt by the Jan. 17 fires at St. Catherine University, but her case raises questions about why she wasn’t arrested after speaking to the agents months earlier and shows the difficulty the authorities face in identifying real threats." 
  29. Frank Rajkowski (2018-04-05). "Lawyers for St. Kate's Terror Suspect Ask for Her Release from Jail". KSTP. Retrieved 2018-05-01. "Court documents show one of the motions filed Thursday asks that the order of detention be reconsidered, and for Hassan to be released into the custody of her mother and sister on the condition she remain on house arrest for the remainder of the case, and her whereabouts be monitored by GPS monitoring." 
  30. Mukhtar M. Ibrahim (2018-04-05). [ "Lawyers for ex-St. Kate student charged with trying to join terror group seek home supervision Issues"]. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2018-05-01. "The release plan submitted Thursday by Hassan's attorneys, Robert Sicoli and Joshua Johnson, said they are requesting that the court reconsider a previous detention order based on new information." 
  31. riggered Ben Rodgers (2018-04-12). "Court Document: 'Files of Concern' Found on Phone of St. Kate's Terror Suspect". KSTP. Retrieved 2018-05-01. "According to the court records, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation gained access to Hassan's phone, they allegedly located terrorist propaganda that "encourages individuals to conduct unlawful acts of violence." Investigators also say they located blueprints and schematics of two building on St. Kate's campus."