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Charge: Former student set fires on St. Catherine campus in retaliation against U.S. military intervention

January 19, 2018 GMT

A 19-year-old former student at St. Catherine University allegedly set several fires across campus Wednesday in retaliation for U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to charges filed Friday.

Tnuza J. Hassan, of Minneapolis, allegedly told police that “she wanted the school to burn to the ground and that her intent was to hurt people,” according to the complaint charging her with one count of of felony first-degree arson filed in Ramsey County District Court.

“Hassan said this was the same thing that happened in the ‘Muslim land’ and nobody cares if they get hurt, so why not do this?” the charge alleged. “…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.’ ”


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 or in the Jeanne d’ Arc Auditorium at 2400 Randolph Av.

“She said she had been a student at Saint Catherine’s but quit last fall because she and her family were planning to vacation in Ethiopia,” the complaint said. “Hassan said she started the fires because she’s been reading about the US military destroying schools in Iraq and Afghanistan and she felt that she should do exactly the same thing.

“She said that her fire-starting was not as successful as she had wanted. She said the most successful fire she set was at Saint Mary’s where she set a couch on fire.”

Books, toilet paper and sanitary napkins were among the objects set on fire, St. Paul fire assistant chief Mike Gaede and Sara Berhow, a university spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

Gaede said the largest object burned was a chair in St. Mary’s residence hall.

Although fire and school officials said at the time that eight fires were set in seven buildings, the criminal complaint noted that there were four “intentional fires” and that Hassan allegedly admitted to starting fires in six buildings.

The fire in St. Mary’s was extinguished by a sprinkler system. The complaint said 33 children and eight adults were at a daycare in the building at the time.

According to the complaint: campus surveillance video showed a woman entering St. Mary’s before the fire broke out. She was carrying a plastic bag.

The woman was then recorded entering and leaving the student lounge before the sprinklers were activated.


Police later found the bag with the box of matches discarded in a bucket.

Hassan allegedly told police that she had written a letter to her roommates containing “radical ideas about supporting Muslims and bringing back the caliphate,” the complaint said.

The letter frightened her roommates, who provided it to campus security.

Court records show no history for Hassan. She was a St. Paul Public Schools student, first enrolling in the district in 2010 at Highland Park Junior High. She graduated from Johnson Senior High in 2016, according to the school district.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

Twitter: @ChaoStrib