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Texas Plumber's Old Truck Ends Up In Hands Of Syrian Militants


About a year ago, a Texas plumber saw a photo of his old Ford pickup truck that he'd traded in. It was being used by jihadis in Syria. Now he's seeking a million dollars in damages from the dealer. NPR's Eyder Peralta explains.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: In his lawsuit, Mark Oberholtzer says that he began to scrape off the name of his company from the truck. But a salesman at AutoNation Ford in Houston told him someone else would take care of it. Months later in December of 2014, his truck had gone from Turkey to Syria, and Oberholtzer says his life changed forever.


STEPHEN COLBERT: That country is going down the toilet, but for the first time, they know who to call to unclog it.

PERALTA: Comedian Stephen Colbert picked up the picture and made the plumber's truck a national sensation.


COLBERT: Although, pickup truck, desert, giant machine gun - that could still be Texas.

PERALTA: In his lawsuit, Oberholtzer says this is no laughing matter. His company received hundreds of calls from people threatening him because they thought he supported terrorists. His secretary quit, and his business's reputation was damaged. Former U.N. ambassador Mark Wallace, of the nonprofit Counter Extremism, has been trying to bring attention to the huge number of trucks ISIS has bought. This case, he says, illuminates how a black market trade across the Turkish border has benefited Islamists.

MARK WALLACE: Turkey has to do a much better job in shutting their border and preventing this porous trade from seeping into the border.

PERALTA: AutoNation says when it auctioned the car, it thought the logo would be scraped off. Eyder Peralta, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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