A U.S. Treasury counter-terrorism unit is investigating a seeming connection between Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE: TM) trucks and ISIS, and has asked the auto company for help, reports ABC.
Many videos and images uploaded to the Internet show what appear to be ISIS fighters staging operations using both “newer and older model” Toyota trucks. Toyota Hiluxes and Land Cruisers appear to be popular choices for Islamic State militants who are at least partly responsible for the deaths of between 100,000 and 330,000 in Syria since early 2011, reports the Violations Documentation Center in Syria and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Forces sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and numerous other jihadi groups are responsible for these lives as well.
U.S. officials want to know where ISIS is getting its Toyotas from and why so many appear in propaganda.
The “seemingly indestructible” Toyota Hilux is described as being a “truck of choice” for ISIS.
“We believe that sales are being diverted from these dealerships in order to support ISIS,” Mark Wallace, who formerly worked as a U.S. diplomat was quoted. “I think it’s a concern to the United States government and our allies.”
“How could they lease 4-wheel-drives?” Lukman Faily, Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States asked with regard to the Toyota trucks. “There could be hundreds of them. Where are they coming from?”
Toyota vehicles aren’t the only ones appearing in the hands of ISIS. A old Mark-1 Plumbing Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) F-250 company vehicle was reportedly sold to AutoNation in 2013. The truck then appeared in an image uploaded to Twitter by an account purporting to be affiliated with the Ansar al-Deen front, reports the Huffington Post. The Texas plumbing company, which denied any involvement with ISIS, fielded thousands of angry and some threatening phone calls, as well as a flood of media attention, as a result of their old truck appearing in propaganda.
AutoNation denied having any part in the truck appearing in the Middle East and claims that it passed through the hands of many owners before ending up being used by ISIS.
Brian Ross with ABC attempted to speak about the Toyota trucks on-camera with representatives of Toyota at a national Toyota dealer meeting held in Las Vegas last month. He was politely escorted from the property of the convention center by security officials who shone lights in the lens of the ABC camera.
Since that time, Toyota has responded to media inquiries and expressed a commitment to helping the Treasury Department in their investigation. The company says that it expressly forbids the sale of Toyota trucks to terrorist or paramilitary organizations by any employees or Toyota dealers. Toyota also says that it has implemented procedures in an attempt to thwart efforts by those who may attempt to circumvent these efforts. However, Toyota admits that once a vehicle has been sold, there is little they can do to monitor and block the sale of the vehicle to those involved in nefarious organizations at a later date.
ISIS’ roots can be traced back to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the power vacuum and weapon stockpiles it left behind when it pulled-out of the country in 2011. The lack of authority in northern Iraq, combined with the availability of weaponry and a growing civil uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, are all seen as contributing to the formation of ISIS. ISIS is said to control a number of oil fields and other money producing assets in northern Iraq and western and southern Syria, reports the International Business Times. With wealth generated from illegal oil sales and other business activities, ISIS is thought to be well-funded, perhaps giving the group the currency it needs to buy arms and Toyota trucks.
[Screenshot Courtesy News Talk Florida / YouTube — Toyoto Logo Photo by Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images — Toyota Sign Photo by Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images]