Muslim man charged in St. Paul mosque arson

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office announced the charges Friday, saying there “was no evidence to connect this incident to a crime of bias.” 

The St. Paul Fire Department responds to Wednesday's arson at 430 Dale Street N. (St. Paul Fire Department/Twitter)

A 42-year-old Muslim man with a prior arson conviction has been charged in Wednesday’s arson of a St. Paul mosque.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office announced the charges Friday, saying there “was no evidence to connect this incident to a crime of bias.”

Said Murekezi has been charged with second-degree arson, second-degree burglary, and fifth-degree drug possession. Murekezi admitted to ATF investigators that he started a fire at the Oromo American Tawhid Islamic Center on Wednesday morning.

He said he broke into the center the night before and slept there overnight, “looking for things inside to burn.” He told police that he is Muslim and burned the building “as a form of protest,” according to the charges, because the vacant building could be used by Muslims in the community who are homeless.

The director of the center told police that it hasn’t been used as a place of worship since 2021. It was being used by staff as an office space until it was vandalized about three weeks ago.

Murekezi said it was a good thing he was caught because he had plans to “torch another one” or “a church.” He claimed that he frequently visits a mosque in St. Paul and another in Mankato where he “robs money from their donation boxes.”

He told investigators that Wednesday’s arson was just “one of many ideas” he has on “how to bring about change.”

“When asked, he stated his other ideas are to inspire others to commit acts of terrorism such as going to the Mall of America, and burning a store, and setting off a bomb where there are no people. He stated people may get hurt or killed with these ideas, and that it would be messed up. He stated that he hates terrorism, but he is becoming one (a terrorist),” the charges state.

He said if he were ever in a government building, he would “burn that bitch down” because “the government isn’t doing enough for homelessness.”

The charges state Murekezi vandalized a Catholic church in Minneapolis this year and an Islamic community center in Minnetonka in 2021. He was on probation for first-degree criminal damage to property at the time of his arrest and was released from the Hennepin County Jail just two days before the arson, the charges say. He has a prior arson conviction stemming from a fire he started in his room at a Catholic Charities facility in St. Paul in August 2020. Murekezi was in possession of meth when he was taken into custody this week.

Several politicians, activists, and religious leaders held a press conference following Wednesday’s arson in which they condemned the incident as an act of hate.

“In the last several months, Minnesota’s Muslim community has experienced several attacks motivated by hate. In Minnesota, we have a zero tolerance policy toward violence. We continue to stand with our Muslim friends and neighbors,” Gov. Tim Walz said on Twitter following the incident.

Jackie Rahm Little, 36, was charged earlier this month in connection to two Minneapolis mosque arsons. Court records show that Little has a history of mental health civil commitment cases and had been found incompetent to stand trial in a 2021 arson case.

Murekezi was scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday in Ramsey County District Court.


Anthony Gockowski

Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and wrote for the Daily Caller.