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Accused terrorist might have hid out at Twin Cities campus for a week

Tnuza Jamal Hassan Courtesy of Ramsey County Sheriff's Office

ST. PAUL—A former St. Catherine University student accused of starting several small fires there last month might have hidden out on the St. Paul campus for up to a week in January.

In light of that information, the university is enlisting external assistance to review its safety procedures. There is no evidence anyone else was involved and there is no current threat at the campus, St. Kate's officials said.

"This is something that we just are looking into out of an abundance of caution because we want to make our campus as safe as possible," university spokeswoman Sara Berhow said. "If this did indeed reveal some policies and procedures that could be changed, we want to go ahead and do that. But there needs to be an assessment first to find out if this is something that could have been prevented — if it did indeed happen."

Information about Tnuza Jamal Hassan being on campus before the series of fires were started was detailed in federal documents about the former student's travels and activities.

After allegedly setting nine fires on the campus, the 19-year-old Hassan, of Minneapolis, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with a count of first-degree arson.

Later, she was charged in federal court with terrorism charges.

None of the fires resulted in injuries or severe damage. The biggest was in a dormitory that housed a day care. There were 33 children and eight adults in the building during the fire, police said.

Hassan reportedly told investigators she started the fires because she heard about the U.S. military destroying schools in Iraq or Afghanistan and she felt inclined to mirror that.

"You guys are lucky that I don't know how to build a bomb because I would have done that," Hassan allegedly told investigators.

She added that "her fire-starting was not as successful as she had wanted," and "she wanted the school to burn to the ground and that her intent was to hurt people," the criminal complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court said.

Investigators later discovered Hassan had previously tried to leave the country twice to join jihadist forces, according to court documents.

During her arraignment Monday, the judge granted a request to keep Hassan detained. She pleaded not guilty to federal terrorism charges Monday.