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VEHICLE EXPLOSION ON RAINBOW BRIDGE KILLS TWO AND DISRUPTS BORDER TRAVEL

(The Situation Update Report [SUR] is a near real-time brief of a possible threat or situation being monitored by The Counter Threat Center. The information is accurate at the time of reporting, but may be subject to change.)


Lydia Baccino, Nicholas Novak, NORTHCOM & Extremism

Alya Fathia Fitri, Editor; Evan Beachler, Senior Editor

November 22, 2023


Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge[1]


Current Situation: A vehicle crashed into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) booth and exploded on the American side of the Rainbow Bridge border crossing, killing both occupants and injuring one. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Buffalo Field Office concluded its investigation by reporting that there was no explosive material at the scene and that there were no discoverable ties to terrorism. They have transferred the investigation to Niagara Falls Police Department as a traffic investigation.[2] The Rainbow Bridge will remain closed for the duration of the investigation. New York State Governor Kathy Hochul stated there is no indication of terrorist involvement, and there has been no indication of online threats or anyone taking credit.[3] The Queenston Lewiston Bridge, the Peace Bridge, and Whirlpool Rapids Bridge were closed following the explosion but reopened.[4] In Canada, Peel Regional Police deployed additional officers to Toronto Pearson International Airport “out of an abundance of caution, and there are no known threats for the city of Toronto.”[5]


Day/Time of event: November 22, 2023, just after 1300 local time


What is the current threat:

  • Critical infrastructure

  • Extremist groups will almost certainly study the response of American and Canadian security forces to plan terror attacks on critical infrastructure in North America. They will almost certainly gather intelligence on security response times, units deployed, locations with the highest density of civilians, the impact of affected trade groups, and find vulnerabilities to exploit. This new intelligence will likely update terrorist propaganda and sabotage manuals.

  • Anti-Western online chat rooms on platforms such as Telegram will likely share intelligence gathered, with a roughly even chance of inspiring lone-wolf attacks on critical infrastructure. They will likely share data amongst themselves relating to the location of the highest civilian backlogs.

  • Terrorist groups will likely perceive the ramifications of the explosion as inspiration, likely viewing the confusion of the public as a benchmark for future terrorist attacks to meet.


Who will it directly impact:

  • Travelers

Travelers will face increased security checks at all border crossings, the Lewiston, Peace, Rainbow, and Whirlpool Bridges, over this holiday period. New York Governor Kathy Hochul has declared that all entry points into New York will be heavily monitored by a joint effort between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the FBI.[6] Buffalo Niagara International Airport has reiterated the statement: "... Cars coming into the Buffalo Airport will undergo security checks, and travelers can expect additional screenings… We advise travelers to give themselves time for these extra precautions in addition to holiday travel.”[7] Niagara Falls Airport will also undergo “increased security checks, explosive detection, and increased screenings.”[8] Further travel restrictions will come as Amtrak has suspended its service between New York and Canada.[9] The increased security patrols will delay the services once it reopens. The I-190 - Niagara Thruway northbound exit 9 (Fort Erie Canada - Porter Avenue - Peace Bridge) to Peace Bridge is closed in New York State.[10]


  • Trade

According to the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), no commercial trucks cross the Rainbow Bridge. The Peace Bridge and Queenston Lewiston Bridge are important trade routes for the Canada-US community. Roughly 6500 trucks cross the two bridges daily. 1.7 million trucks travel across the two bridges annually, moving $67 billion in trade.[11] Both bridges are now open, but heightened security and the backlog of traffic will almost certainly delay truckers transporting goods. Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) is working with the OTA to minimize border and trade impact.[12]


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[2] CTG Threat Hunter 58 via X

[3] Governor Kathy Hochul, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Buffalo Airport, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[8] Governor Hochul Updates New Yorkers on Bridge Closures on US-Canadian Border, New York State, November 2023, https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-updates-new-yorkers-bridge-closures-us-canadian-border

[9] Amtrak suspends services between New York and Canada after Rainbow Bridge crash, NBC News, November 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/amtrak-suspends-services-between-new-york-and-canada-after-rainbow-bridge-crash-198527045899

[10] Governor Hochul Updates New Yorkers on Bridge Closures on US-Canadian Border, New York State, November 2023, https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-updates-new-yorkers-bridge-closures-us-canadian-border

[11] Border Crossings Between Canada and Western NY After Car Explosion at Rainbow Bridge, Ontario Trucking Association, November 2023, https://ontruck.org/newsflash-border-crossings-between-canada-and-western-new-york-closed-due-significant-incident-at-rainbow-bridge/

[12] Ibid

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