Woman Accused in St. Kate's Arson Tried to Leave US to Join Terrorist Groups, Court Filing Says

February 12, 2018 09:40 AM

A woman accused of starting nine fires in multiple buildings on the campus of St. Catherine University and now facing federal charges of arson and terrorism had twice attempted to leave the country to join al-Qaida, according to a court document filed on Friday.

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."

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RELATED: Woman Accused of St. Kate's Arson Now Facing Federal Terrorism Charge

The attorney's office announced a three-count indictment last week against Hassan that includes charges of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, making a false statement, and arson. 

Hassan, of Minneapolis, was arrested by FBI agents Thursday at Ramsey County jail, where she had been detained since she allegedly set the fires on campus Jan. 17, including in one building that housed a day care center in which 33 kids and eight adults were present, according to the memorandum.

The document points to evidence that Hassan tried to travel to Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 19 of last year to join al-Qaida and the "'Islamic Resistance,' which she defined as (al-Qaida) and the Taliban." 

The memo says Hassan reached Dubai in that effort, but was prevented from traveling further because she lacked a visa. 

Prior to that, the document alleges, she attempted to recruit two female classmates to join al-Qaida or other organizations. She initially denied, but later admitted, to authoring a recruitment letter in March 2017. 

Hassan was an English major, but is not currently enrolled at St. Kate's or employed. 

The document says she again tried to leave the country on Dec. 29, 2017, on a ticket to Ethiopia with her mother, though authorities prevented her from boarding the flight and her mother chose not to go.

Josh Johnson, an attorney representing Hassan, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. 

St. Paul police spokesperson Steve Linders also said a missing persons report on Hassan was filed with the department on Sept. 20, 2017. Officers were called to St. Kate's where a resident advisor reportedly told them Hassan's mother and sister had reported her missing.

But on Sept. 25, Linders said her sister reportedly contacted the investigator to say that Hassan had been picked up at the airport and returned home.

RELATED: Sources: FBI Investigating Woman Charged with Arson at St. Catherine

After she was arrested in connection to the St. Kate's fires, Hassan admitted to authorities she set the fires in an act of jihad "in retaliation for the alleged misconduct of U.S. military forces in Muslim lands," according to the document. She admitted she hoped her actions would kill innocent people, the document says.

In arguing for her detention ahead of Monday's hearing, the U.S. attorney's office also cited her admission that if released from custody but not allowed to leave the country, she would have the "'right' to wage violent jihad here in America."

The attorney's office says it also plans to offer additional evidence to support their argument for keeping Hassan in custody, including statements with multiple references to "violent jihad, including those evidencing a desire to kill innocent Americans," as well as a copy of the alleged recruitment letter written by Hassan in March 2017.

RELATED: Suspect Identified Following Multiple Fires on St. Catherine Campus

It also plans to argue Hassan's family has been unable to control or account for her behavior, citing three missing persons reports the family filed after each of Hassan's alleged attempts to leave the country.

Hassan, a former St. Catherine student, was charged with first-degree arson in Ramsey County last month in connection to the fires on campus. 

The criminal complaint in connection to that incident includes a statement from Hassan that alleges she said she started the fires because "this was the same thing that happened in 'Muslim land' and nobody cares if they got hurt."  Attorneys stated she's "become dangerously radicalized."

Her arraignment and detention hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday. Hassan faces a maximum 48 years in prison, according to the memo.

Stay tuned to KSTP.com and 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS for updates to this story.
 

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Michael Oakes and Beth McDonough

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