The following combat footage took place in the Haditha desert of Iraq. It shows a large group of tribal fighters launch a rapid ambush on a high-speed Toyota Hilux technical being driven by ISIS fighters. Around 10 seconds into the video, one of the tribal fighters can be seen hunched over and clutching his body after being hit by friendly fire in the chaos. Big thanks to @Otto69070664 for sending in the video.

As the fighters approach the bullet-riddled Toyota Hilux they can be heard telling each other to be careful and to put out the fire in the vehicle with dirt which was likely in an attempt to save any intel inside the vehicle from burning.

Although the slain ISIS fighters are not immediately visible inside the vehicle, it looks as though one of the passengers was thrown into the back seat of the vehicle and is burning. The video then shows an explosion a few hundred feet away from the vehicle which is likely one of the fighters who escaped the vehicle detonating a suicide vest when surrounded by pursuing tribal fighters.

Why Are There So Many Toyotas in Middle East Conflicts?

Alongside the Kalashnikov, one of the most ubiquitous brands being used in various conflicts across the Middle East is the iconic Toyota pickup. The prominence of the brand in modern warfare was first brought to mainstream attention in 2014 when enormous columns of armed Toyota Hilux and Land Cruisers were seen being used in Daesh propaganda videos in Iraq and Syria and Libya.

One of the main reasons for this can be traced back to when ISIS terrorists held a parade through the center of Raqqa, it’s estimated that over two-thirds of the vehicles were Toyota SUVs. However, the presence of Toyota pickups in modern warfare goes back a while before 2014. But why?

the Toyota pickup truck is the vehicle of choice for irregular, non-state or weak-state forces who don’t have access to military vehicles like tanks or who can’t afford extensive logistic chains. Additionally, they often need to quickly move through rough terrain and urban environments. The hardwearing and extremely reliable Toyota ticks all the boxes for carrying out such a task. Additionally, the trucks bed is the perfect size for fitting heavy weaponry too.

In the 1980s, the humble Toyota SUV found itself so prominently at the center of a 1987 armed conflict between Chad and Libya, that the war was named ”The Toyota War”. In their fight against Colonel Gaddafi’s Libyan troops, Chadian soldiers used Toyota Hilux and Land Cruisers in order to gain mobility against the Libyans. The war ended in a catastrophic defeat for Libya who lost an estimated $1.5 billion of military equipment and 7,500 troops killed in comparison to the 1,000 Chadian troops killed.

“Toyota has a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities.”

– Toyota Spokesperson

In the Soviet-Afghan War, even Soviet soldiers were not averse to the capitalist technology of Toyota. There are various photographs of Soviet troops, primarily Spetznaz special forces, using Toyota Hilux or Land Cruisers mounted with classic Soviet-made weaponry like the DShK.

In the 1990s and early noughties, the Toyota technical began appearing in a string of conflicts from Africa to the Middle East. The Toyota technical found a role on all sides of various bitter conflicts. From the Northern Alliance and the Taliban to ISIS and the Iraqi Army, its qualities were appreciated by friend and foe alike.

Tribal Fighters Ambush High-Speed ISIS Toyota Hilux at Close Range
Chadian troops riding on a Toyota technical during the Great Toyota War.

Whilst many, including the U.S. Government, have pointed the finger at Toyota due to the overwhelming amount of Toyotas being in the hands of terrorists, guerrillas, and paramilitary forces around the world, it is not, in fairness, Toyota’s fault. When the question was put to Toyota, the auto manufacturers spokesperson made the following statement.

“Toyota has a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities. 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 role Toyota SUVs play in modern warfare has even spawned a popular Instagram page followed by tens of thousands of war buffs and vehicle lovers. @ToyotasofWar focuses on various photographs of Toyotas used in conflict zones across the world from Africa to Afghanistan.

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To quote Auto Evolution: The Toyota pickup truck is instrumental to people in the Western world, but never forget that this humble tool you haul and tow things with also has the power to shape the borders of the world we’re living in.

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Batya (Батя) is the founder of Reaper Feed. He is a security advisor and a high-risk expedition leader across former and active conflict zones such as Eastern Ukraine, unrecognized post-Soviet states, the North Caucasus, and the Middle East. Batya founded Reaper Feed to provide unprecedented insight into the lesser-seen sides of human conflict and modern warfare.