ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Nineteen-year-old Tnuza Hassan is accused of arson, lying to the FBI and providing material support to al-Qaeda.

Tnuza Hassan (credit: CBS/St. Paul Police)

Police say it was Hassan who started the fires inside several buildings on the campus of St. Catherine University. One building housed a day care.

Fortunately, no one was injured.

On Monday, Hassan walked into court almost unrecognizable.

She was covered from head to toe, only her eyes could be seen through her hajab.

Hassan entered a plea of not guilty to arson and federal terrorism charges, but Judge Steven Rau felt her actions spoke louder than her words, ordering her detained until her trial.

Federal court documents claim Hassan tried to leave the country twice to join a foreign terror group.

Prosecutors also say she tried to recruit others to become terrorists as well.

Related: Memorandum In Support Of Detention (.pdf)

FBI agents interviewed Hassan back in September about whether she wrote and delivered a letter to two St. Kate’s students, letters prosecutors say encouraged fellow students to join al-Qaeda, the Taliban or al-Shabaab.

Hassan is accused of lying to the FBI about the letters.

She is also accused of first-degree arson.

Court documents say Hassan set fires on the campus of St. Kate’s in St. Paul.

She told police she did it because “she’d been reading about the U.S. military destroying schools in Iraq and Afghanistan and she felt that she should do exactly the same thing.”

She also told investigators those fires were acts of jihad and that she hoped her actions would kill innocent people.

She went on to say the community was lucky she didn’t know how to make a bomb.

Federal prosecutors told the judge that Hassan is a danger to the community as well as a flight risk.

They asked him to deny her bail and keep her behind bars until her trial date. The judge complied.

Her next court appearance is set for April 16.

If convicted, she could spend up to 48 years in prison for the federal charges alone.

Reg Chapman

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