After months of speculation, the U.S. government has begun investigating how the Islamic State has acquired the hundreds of Toyota pickup trucks which are featured in the group’s propaganda videos.
ABC News reports that Lukman Faily, the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, stated the Iraqi government believes ISIS has not only re-purposed older trucks but also has obtained “brand new” Toyota trucks in recent years.
“This is a question we’ve been asking our neighbors,” Faily said. “How could these brand new trucks… these four-wheel drives, hundreds of them — where are they coming from?”
In videos from ISIS, hundreds of Toyota Hilux pickups, an overseas model similar to the Toyota Tacoma, and Toyota Land Cruisers can be seen. These trucks are outfitted with heavy weaponry.
“Regrettably, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand,” said Mark Wallace, CEO of the Counter Extremism Project and a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations told ABC. “In nearly every ISIS video, they show a fleet — a convoy of Toyota vehicles and that’s very concerning to us.”
According to Toyota’s own numbers, sales of Hilux and Land Cruisers tripled from 6,000 sold in Iraq in 2011 to 18,000 sold in 2013, before sales dropped down to 13,000 in 2014.
Ed Lewis, Toyota’s Washington-based director of public policy and communications, told ABC that the trucks in the videos are not recent models. “We have procedures in place to help ensure our products are not diverted for unauthorized military use,” Lewis said. Still, Lewis noted, “It is impossible for Toyota to completely control indirect or illegal channels through which our vehicles could be misappropriated.”
Wallace said that the Counter Extremism Project wrote to Toyota earlier this year asking the company to do more to track the trucks using traceable identification numbers which are stamped on each vehicle.
“I don’t think Toyota’s trying to intentionally profit from it, but they are on notice now and they should do more,” Wallace told ABC. He said that Toyota should be able find the trucks and stop the transfer of more vehicles. “I think they should disclose that, put a stop to that, and put policies and procedures in places that are real and effective to make sure that we don’t see videos of ISIS using Toyota trucks in the future.”
Toyota told ABC News that they met with Treasury Department officials but would not provide details on the meeting, fearing “illicit groups” might “penetrate” supply chains. The Treasury Department also refused to comment on the meeting, only stating that investigators are “working closely with foreign counterparts and stakeholders” on the issue.
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