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Toyota aiding Treasury Dept. probe into Mideast terror group vehicles

Japanese automaker Toyota says it is cooperating with the U.S. Treasury Department's inquiry into the acquisition of its vehicles by Mideast terror groups.

Over the years, Toyota cars, such as the Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, have appeared in many ISIS propaganda videos. But how the terror group has acquired the trucks is not clear. They are sold in Iraq.

In a statement to CBS News, Toyota said it is 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 has a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities," the statement read.

Toyota said that they have procedures and contractual commitments in place to help prevent their products from being diverted for unauthorized military use.

ISIS militants drive in procession through the northeastern Libyan city of Sirte
ISIS militants drive in procession through the northeastern Libyan city of Sirte, in a video released by the group on Feb. 19, 2015.

"However, it is impossible for any automaker to control indirect or illegal channels through which our vehicles could be misappropriated, stolen or re-sold by independent third parties," the company said.

In a statement to CBS News, the U.S. Treasury Department said they will not comment publicly about possible engagement with specific private companies. A spokesperson would not comment on a report from ABC News that Treasury had specifically asked Toyota for briefing on its supply chain regarding ISIS.

"In line with our usual approach to understanding ISIL's financial and economic activities, we are working closely with foreign counterparts and stakeholders worldwide," the statement read.

"60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan reports that the use of Toyota trucks by terrorists can be traced back to Somalia. Somalis, working with al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, are believed to have pioneered the technique of mounting machine guns on the back of their trucks and using them in combat.

Mark Wallace, the CEO of the not-for-profit Counter Extremism Project, a group formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideology, told CBS News that ISIS' use of what seems to be new Toyotas in their videos is a product of Toyota's own success.

"Toyota is a great company. I don't believe Toyota is an ISIS sympathizer in any way or supporter," said Wallace.

Wallace said ISIS tries to project power and dominance through incredibly symbolic images.

He said back in February, he sent a letter to Toyota about the cars appearing in ISIS videos. He asked the company to clarify and look into it.

"We don't know exactly how this happened," Wallace said to CBS News. "Once you figure that out, there has to be action taken on how this transpired."

"I would like to see an investigation," Wallace added.

He said that there has been reports that private people in war-torn Iraq and Syria do not prefer the cars, given its close association with the terror group.

Amanda Art contributed to this report.

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