Trainee nurse guilty of plot to launch suicide bomb attack on hospital

By John Mercury July 2, 2024

A trainee nurse has been found guilty of attempting to launch an ISIS-inspired suicide attack using a homemade bomb on the hospital where he worked.

Mohammad Sohail Farooq, 28, was arrested outside St James’s Hospital in Leeds with a viable bomb, manufactured from a pressure cooker containing 9.9kg of low explosive, in January 2023.

Other items, including two knives, black tape and an imitation firearm with blank ammunition, were also found on him or in his car.

Sheffield Crown Court heard he immersed himself in “extremist Islamic ideology” and went to the site to “seek his own martyrdom” through a “murderous terrorist attack”.

But his plan was thwarted by a “simple act of kindness” from a patient at the hospital who engaged him in conversation outside the building and managed to persuade him to abandon the plan.

A jury convicted him on Tuesday after deliberating for less than two hours.

It can be disclosed that police discovered Farooq had watched antisemitic videos on TikTok and had taken a photograph on his phone of a plaque which commemorated Jewish links to the hospital.

Investigations also revealed he had been carrying out a secret poison pen campaign against several colleagues after he was made to repeat a year of his course because he was regularly ringing in sick and did not pass the required exams.

Farooq had originally planned to attack RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, but switched targets after conducting a series of reconnaissance trips and finding it was too well guarded.

Mohammad Sohail Farooq's device outside St James's Hospital in Leeds. Pic: Counter Terrorism Policing North East
Farooq’s device outside St James’s Hospital in Leeds. Pic: Counter Terrorism Policing North East

Prosecutors said Farooq had followed guidance in a terrorist manual titled “safety and security guidelines for lone wolf mujahedeen and small cells” to have two plans for his terrorist attack – a “Plan A”, and a “Plan B” in case the first was not possible.

However, the plot was prevented by Nathan Newby, a patient at the hospital. After returning from a walk to get some air, he saw Farooq outside the entrance to the Gledhow Wing of the hospital.

Jonathan Sandiford KC, for the prosecution, earlier told the court: “Mr Newby realised something was amiss and instead of walking away, he began talking to the defendant.

“That simple act of kindness almost certainly saved many lives that night.”

It came after Farooq had earlier sent a bomb threat in a text to an off-duty nurse in order to lure people to the car park where he was waiting to detonate his device.

However, the text was not seen for almost an hour, and the full-scale evacuation he had hoped for did not happen.

Prosecutors said Farooq left but returned shortly afterwards with a new plan to wait for a staff shift change before exploding his bomb – until he got chatting with Mr Newby.

Farooq claimed his bomb was meant to be twice as powerful as the one used in the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Pic: PA
Farooq claimed his bomb was meant to be twice as powerful as the one used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Pic: PA

Mr Newby told police: “I’m quite good at reading people’s body language, I don’t know why, I thought I would go over and see if he’s alright, to try and cheer him up and see why he looks like the way he did – down, depressed and upset, like he had been given some bad news, swaying backwards and forwards.”

They got chatting and for a while they had a “totally normal chat” but then Farooq unzipped the bag to show Newby the pressure cooker and wires. “He said: ‘Do you like that?’ That’s what he said. I thought wow, as if I was looking at what he said was a bomb.”

Newby moved Farooq to a bench away from the hospital entrance and, three hours later, persuaded him to let him call the police.

Items found in Mohammad Sohail Farooq's car outside St James's Hospital in Leeds. Pic: Counter Terrorism Policing North East
Items, including a knife, were found in Farooq’s car. Pic: Counter Terrorism Policing North East

Afterwards Mr Newby told police: “I was shocked I had managed to talk him out of it. I reached out my hand, I gave him a hug and said mate you’ve done the right thing, to try and keep him calm.

“I thought what would have happened if I had wrestled him to the floor and he got agitated – a lot of what ifs.”

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Farooq did not give evidence during his trial but admitted to police that he had made the bomb while in his car at night, parked outside Roundhay Park in Leeds.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to firearms offences, possessing an explosive substance with intent and having a document likely to be useful to a person preparing or committing an act of terrorism.

On Tuesday he was found guilty of preparing terrorist acts.

Bethan David, head of the Crown Prosecution Service‘s counter terrorism division, said: “Farooq is an extremely dangerous individual who amassed a significant amount of practical and theoretical information that enabled him to produce a viable explosive device.

“He then took that homemade explosive device to a hospital where he worked with the intention to cause serious harm.”

She added: “The extremist views Farooq holds are a threat to our society, and I am pleased the jury found him guilty of his crimes.”


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