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Toronto 18 bomb plotter granted parole after apologizing, insisting he is reformed

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A key member of a terrorist group that plotted truck bombings in downtown Toronto in 2006 was granted day parole on Tuesday, even though a corrections official opposed his release as “premature.”

The Parole Board of Canada approved Shareef Abdelhaleem’s plan to move to a Montreal halfway house, but said he must stay away from Toronto and cannot have a leadership position in any religious group.

Abdelhaleem is serving a life sentence for terrorism. At a hearing in Quebec, a parole officer said the Correctional Service Canada did not believe he was ready for day parole.

The halfway house where Abdelhaleem intended to live also withdrew its support for him last week, saying his needs were too high to manage, the parole officer told the hearing.

Read more: Parole Board raises concerns about Toronto terrorism convict ahead of his prison release

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But Abdelhaleem said he was no longer a threat.

“I do believe that I am fully rehabilitated,” the former software developer said. “If you release me you will not be sorry.”

It was his second attempt at day parole. His first application was denied last year.

The Correctional Service released a statement that did not mention the case but said it took public safety seriously and could take action if “an offender’s risk in the community cannot be effectively managed.”

A Parole Board spokesperson said an offender could not be released until a halfway house agreed to take him.

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Once he is released, Abdelhaleem will only be allowed to own a single cell phone, cannot associate with anyone involved in “radicalized activity,” and must follow a deradicalization treatment plan.

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During the hearing, Abdelhaleem apologized to those who worked in the Toronto buildings he was plotting to bomb, and insisted he no longer believed in violence.

He said that when he joined the pro-Al Qaeda terrorist group known as the Toronto 18, he “felt like an overgrown fat pig whose main purpose in life was to consume.”

“I abhorred myself.”

Read more: Canada’s terrorism offenders are coming out of prison still radicalized

Parole and corrections officials have been struggling to deal with Canadian terrorism offenders, some of who have been released despite concerns they remained radicalized.

Abdelhaleem played a critical part in the Toronto-based terrorist group, which trained at a camp north of the city, built detonators and tried to purchase ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

According to court records, he wanted the bombings to take place on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to “teach the world to be aware of that date forever.”

He thought the bombs would destroy the Toronto Stock Exchange, damaging Canada’s economy. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service building and a military base were also to be targeted.

“It was Abdelhaleem’s wish to detonate the bombs on three consecutive days and not simultaneously. That would have a greater impact on Canada and result in citizens not leaving their homes due to fear,” according to court records.

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“The plot would ‘screw’ Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper, the government and the military and might lead to Canada withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan,” the court records indicate.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca