NEW YORK – Toyota has spoken with U.S. officials about the prominent use of its vehicles by militants in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
“We are supporting the U.S. Treasury Department’s broader inquiry into international supply chains and the flow of capital and goods in the Middle East,” Toyota spokeswoman Amanda Rice told Kyodo News.
Toyota trucks are conspicuous in extremist propaganda and are often what carry Islamic State group fighters to war, some with large caliber weapons affixed to truck beds.
The company says it prohibits sales to anyone who might modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities.
There are procedures in place to prevent vehicles from being diverted for unauthorized military use, but Toyota says it is impossible to control channels through which vehicles may be misappropriated or resold by third parties.
The Treasury Department’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence wing monitors monetary transfers and the flow of goods that could aid militants, but the department declined comment on any ongoing inquiry Wednesday.
The militant group’s propaganda videos show the terrorists driving a combination of older and newer models and the U.S. believes the Islamic State has recently obtained “hundreds of brand new” Toyota vehicles, U.S. broadcaster ABC News said.
The company’s sales operations in Syria ceased in 2012 and regional Toyota distributors do not know how the Islamic State acquired the vehicles, according to the network.
Vehicles from other automakers have been featured in the videos, such as those from Hyundai Motor Co. and Isuzu Motors Ltd., the report said, but the Toyota models have become “fixtures” for the Islamic State.
When the Islamic State paraded through the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, more than two-thirds of the vehicles in the convoy appeared to be from Toyota, the broadcaster reported.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Wallace, who currently heads an organization that studies the financial networks of terrorists, told ABC News that the vehicles “have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand.”
Wallace told the network that the Toyota vehicles are seen in almost every Islamic State propaganda video and that his group urged the company earlier this year to do more in tracking how terrorists acquire their vehicles.