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'Vendetta bomber' deemed a dangerous offender

Nobody crossed Adel Mohamed Nagi Arnaout and got away with it.

In a one-man terror rampage that targeted a host of individuals whom he felt had wronged him, the self-styled "Vendetta bomber" engaged in a furious campaign of poisonings, letter bombings and exploding packages.

Pronouncing him a dangerous offender with little hope of rehabilitation Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Judge Todd Ducharme sent Mr. Arnaout to prison on an indefinite sentence.

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"I found that his intent was to kill his targets," Judge Ducharme said. "Judged from the perspective of his intent, his actions closely resemble acts of terrorism but for the non-political, utterly banal nature of his cause. If Mr. Arnaout had been more competent, the results of his actions could have been truly horrific."

When police arrested Mr. Arnaout in 2007, they found evidence that he had scoured the Internet for tips about purchasing grenades and detonators. The 41-year-old Toronto resident had also methodically researched biological weapons, such as Ebola and anthrax, as well as chemical weapons, such as mustard gas and sarin.

Sprinkled among disjointed writings about Islam on his computer, Mr. Arnaout had written: "Expect your thugs' casualties to be around 1800 dead," and "Because we can't become a citizen; we can't get police clearance letter; we can't get good jobs, you must die and pay with your blood for those mistakes."

His list of 452 targets included former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, Jewish schools, businesses, jails and courthouses, the Canadian Holocaust Museum, Ontario Court Judge Bernard Kelly, Ontario Court Chief Judge Brian Lennox and former Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry.

"Mr. Arnaout has a greatly magnified sense of his own victimhood," Judge Ducharme said. "He blames others for problems that either do not exist or that he has brought on himself. This is accompanied by a sense that he is entitled to avenge himself no matter how minor the original slight."

Police were convinced that Mr. Arnaout was serious about his plans. Investigators considered the explosive devices they found to be, "very intricate, very powerful, very well-made" They said that Mr. Arnaout had caused damage to his rented residence by testing smaller versions of some explosives on dolls and stuffed animals.

Convicting Mr. Arnaout of 11 counts of attempted murder, three counts of delivering an explosive device and one count of possessing an explosive device, Judge Ducharme said that the recipients were mainly employees of a bank and two talent agencies.

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Mr. Arnaout had gone to considerable effort to create and deliver his weapons. The poisons he mixed, for example, had been poured into free promotional bottles of water he had doctored and delivered to the workplaces of his intended victims.

Judge Ducharme noted that only good fortune and Mr. Arnaout's technical ineptitude had prevented numerous deaths. Most of those targeted for poison drank little or none of it before contacting police and most of his explosives were discovered and exploded by police before they could harm their intended targets.

Born and raised in Lebanon, Mr. Arnaout immigrated to the United States on a student visa. He obtained some university training and drifted from job to job. After arriving in Canada in 2001, he spent most of his time working as a security guard or unemployed. After he moved from Halifax to Toronto, Mr. Arnaout became increasingly volatile and isolated.

Family members described him as being timid, but sociable and helpful when invited to participate in activities. His interests included martial arts, scuba diving, parachuting and guns.

As his mental well-being deteriorated, Mr. Arnaout began to fire off threatening letters to people who had angered him. He reported one man to police as an al-Qaeda terrorist. He was evicted from a co-op house in Guelph, Ont., and reported to police several times by worried acquaintances.

In 2005-2007, he called police hundreds of times to claim that he was being harassed by his purported enemies. At the same time, he also became convinced that police were watching and harassing him.

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Psychiatrists who examined Mr. Arnaout found him to be duplicitous, manipulative, rigid and endlessly self-justifying.

"In exploring this, Mr. Arnaout admitted that when he feels affronted, he simply cannot stop angry and vengeful thoughts from flowing through his mind until he does something," Judge Ducharme remarked.

The judge said he is callous and entirely lacking in empathy for others. "He lacks any remorse or guilt for his actions. Indeed, he seems to believe that his actions were justified. Such a stunning lack of insight raises a very real concern about Mr. Arnaout engaging in similar activities in future."

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Justice reporter

Born in Montreal, Aug. 3, 1954. BA (Journalism) Ryerson, 1979. Previously covered environment beat, Queen's Park. Toronto courts bureau from 1981-85. Justice beat from 1985 - present. More

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