ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Minnesota woman is accused of trying to travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda was “self-radicalized” and intended to kill people if they have different burn, on a campus in the last month, a federal prosecutor argued Monday.
Tnuza Jamal Hassan, 19, of Minneapolis, was arrested last month, allegedly after setting nine fires at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, where she is a former student. No one was injured in the Jan. 17 fires, but was set in a dormitory that houses a daycare centre, where 33 children were present.
During the interview by the researchers, Hassan said that they had expected that the buildings burned down and “they hoped that the people would be killed,” Assistant district Attorney of the V. S. Andrew Winter said during a hearing Monday in the U.S. district Court.
Hassan pleaded not guilty Monday to federal counts of attempting to material support to al-Qaida, lying to the FBI and arson. She is also confronted with a state arson charges.
Her attorney, Robert Sicoli, argued she was “pretty” and should be placed on house arrest and electronic surveillance. But the U.S. Judge Steven Rau ordered her detained, citing a risk of flight and danger to the community.
According to the prosecutor, Hassan wrote a letter to two fellow St. Catherine students in March, in an attempt to encourage them to “join the jihad in the struggle against” and to be a member of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or al-Shabab. Then in September, she tried to travel to Afghanistan and made it as far as Dubai, United Arab Emirates, before she was stopped because she did not have a required visa.
Winter said Hassan admitted to the researchers that they tried to join al-Qaeda, saying they would probably get married and not fight. But when pressed, she would have told the researchers that they guessed they would perform a suicide attack if she was the only one to do it.
“By all accounts, they self-radicalized,” Winter said, adding that a search of her laptop showed she had been watching online videos and researching of places to go to conduct of a jihad.
Sicoli said Hassan, who is a U.S. citizen, had no contact with anyone in Afghanistan, did not know they needed a visa and not a phone number of someone to contact if they are there.
According to the court documents, Hassan admitted she set the fires because they read about the US army destroying schools in Iraq or Afghanistan and they wanted to do the same thing. They also told the researchers they were “lucky” they didn’t know how to build a bomb, the state criminal complaint said.
Hassan was an English major who was last enrolled at St. Catherine’s in the fall 2017 semester, but is not currently a student.
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