When many people think about terrorism, bombs are often where the mind goes. Not all terrorists use bombs or even have the skills to do so. In a recent court case against a terror suspect who set fires, the courtroom was stunned as the accused shared she was not successful in killing more simply because she did not know how to make bombs. She stated that the local community was “…lucky I don’t know how to build a bomb.”
The suspect is 19-year-old Muslim Tnuza Jamal Hassan. She was arrested on one count of arson tied to 8 fires set at the St. Paul campus of the St. Catherine’s University. Hassan was enrolled at the college in the fall as a freshman but dropped out shortly after that. She was hoping to kill children at the school to gain national and possibly worldwide attention.
When small fires started to break out all over the campus in Minneapolis, school officials did not have any idea why they were set. There was nothing to indicate these were tied to any particular terrorist group until the story about the suspect began to emerge. Hassan made no efforts to hide the fact this was an attack at the hands of jihad with the intent to kill as many people as possible.
Hassan shared that she set the fires to get revenge for school fires she read about online. She shared that she knew American troops were burning schools in Iraq and Afghanistan, so she felt like she should do the same thing here.
Beyond sharing her reason for the fires, Hassan also shared that she was not happy with the outcomes of the fires. She set a series of 8 small fires and was disappointed that the fires did not kill anyone. It seems she set them to burn the school to the ground and kill as many as possible.
At one point during the arsons, Hassan targeted Saint Mary’s Hall. This is a dorm that also houses a daycare. She was hoping to burn it down and kill both women and children to get more attention. At the time the fire was set there were 33 children and eight adults at risk.
Hassan not only started a fire in a bathroom within Saint Mary’s Hall but also went on to set 7 more fires. The fires were spread out all over campus in the hopes that the sheer number of fires would leave personal pulled so thin they could not put them all out. Her careful planning was set into place to create chaos and try to keep starting more fires as campus workers worked to put the others out.
As each fire was set on campus, officials began to try to see a pattern. They quickly realized they were dealing with a significant threat and worked to stop the fire setting. Police looked at on-campus security cameras and found footage of Hassan setting the fires.
Hassan was arrested the afternoon of the fires in a dorm room. She was brought up on one count of arson even though they confirmed there were a total of 8 fires set. There is no explanation as to why she was only charged with setting one of the fires.
During interviews with police, Hassan made it very clear she intended to kill strangers. She was not setting fires to do property damage; she was out for blood. There are many within the local community that want to know why she was not charged with attempted murder. When she set the fire at Saint Mary’s Hall, she did so to kill as many of the 33 children and eight adults that were there as possible. It would seem logical to charge her with 41 counts of attempted murder as well. In all total, it appears that the suspect has walked away with a bare minimum of charges for a severe terrorist attack.
For those who are dismissing these fires as not being serious, something that the suspect said in court upon her first appearance may change that. It seems the young defendant was not overly sorry for her efforts, in fact very much the opposite. She expressed frustration that her efforts did not end in any deaths. She also shared that the campus was lucky that she did not know how to make bombs as she would have done so. The amateur fires set that day was not what she intended to do, but she did not have the needed skills to carry out a more massive scale attack alone.