It’s not just the iconic black flags and bulky weapons of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, that have become fixtures of their propaganda videos. Counterterror officials are concerned by the large number of Toyota pickup trucks and SUVs that have appeared in ISIS videos, and have reportedly sought the automaker's help in determining how they ended up in militant hands, ABC News reported Tuesday.
“Regrettably, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand,” Mark Wallace, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and CEO of the Counter Extremism Project, told ABC News.
The militants have a penchant for Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, an overseas model similar to the Toyota Tacoma, and Toyota Land Cruisers. Both are commonly featured in their videos and have been used to engage in military activities and patrol ISIS-held areas, guns mounted on top. When ISIS fighters paraded through Raqqa, the group's de-facto capital over the past year and a half, more than two-thirds of the vehicles filmed were reportedly Toyotas.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 6, 2015
Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S., said his government believes ISIS has repurposed older trucks but has also acquired hundreds of new ones. Representatives of Toyota said they were not sure how ISIS obtained the vehicles, and were willing to cooperate in the investigation with the Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. The government unit works to prevent terrorists from attaining Western-made products.
Toyota reportedly has a “strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities,” Ed Lewis, the company’s Washington director of public policy and communications, said. He added that many of the vehicles appeared to be outdated models.
— NewsFlashback (@NewsFlashback) September 7, 2015
This is not the first time Western-made trucks that have ended up in Syria have raised eyebrows. A Texan plumber late last year said he was confused how his truck, a black Ford F-250 with the logo of his company emblazoned on the door, ended up in a picture tweeted by the Ansar al-Deen Front, a militant group fighting near Aleppo. In the picture, a man fires an anti-aircraft gun from the back of the truck.
Several theories have been proposed for how the Toyota trucks may have ended up in ISIS hands, but finding answers has proved difficult. Toyota ended its sales to Syria years ago.