GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed Tuesday in riots sparked by outrage at a movie backed by Gainesville pastor Terry Jones, who's best known for burning Qurans two years ago, leading to days of unrest in Afghanistan.
J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed in a rocket attack on the U.S. Consulate in the city of Benghazi.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identified a second victim as Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer who was a 10-year veteran of the State Department, a husband and a father of two.
The two other victims have not been named.
The violence, which occurred 11 years to the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was believed to have been carried out by Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda-style Sunni Islamist group that has been active in Benghazi, a Libyan security official said. Officials said rioting taking place nearby may have been used as a cover for the attack.
Clinton said a film titled "Muhammad," produced in the United States, was cited as a likely cause of the deadly attack but added that "there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."
Conservative Muslims said the film denigrates Islam and its holiest figure, Muhammad. In a clip posted on YouTube, Muhammad was shown in an apparent sexual act with a woman. For many Muslims it is blasphemous even to show a depiction of the Prophet.
According to Col. Dave Lapan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, spoke with Jones by phone Wednesday morning and asked him to withdraw his support of the anti-Muslim film.
"In the brief call, Gen Dempsey expressed his concerns over the nature of the film, the tensions it will inflame and the violence it will cause," according to a statement. "He asked Mr Jones to consider withdrawing his support for the film."
Lapan said Jones did not say whether he would limit or continue his backing of the movie, "Innocence of Muslims."
Jones was unapologetic about his role in the attack.
"It basically, unfortunately, proves that it's a religion of retaliation, it's very tragical what has happened there," Jones told Local 6.
"The fact that angry protesters climbed the wall at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, ripped down the American flag and tore it apart further indicates the lack of respect that Islam has for any other religion, any other flag, any freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion," Jones said Tuesday in a statement released before the death in Benghazi was confirmed. "It further illustrates that they have no tolerance for anything outside of Muhammad."
Jones told Local 6 in an interview on Wednesday that both he and the filmmaker realize that mocking the prophet is the ultimate insult.
"I realize that our actions and what we said and the things that we said could be insulting, that is what freedom of speech sometimes does," Jones said.
Jones said he is in the process of downloading the 14-minute video and will send out a link to his clip to his followers.
President Barack Obama called the attack "outrageous."
Meanwhile, a local Muslim Imam told Local 6 there's only one responsible thing to do as a response to the controversial video.
""I think it's going to get worse if we don't take some actions. We can't ignore it and hide behind our freedoms of speech," said Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. "So, the responsible thing is to take this offensive thing offline. And slow down or prevent more people from really reacting to it."
Musri told Local 6 he's not surprised Jones is backing the controversial video and that he's met him twice in 2010 when Jones was planning to burn a Quran. He said Jones is using the video to grab fame and to get people to talk about him again.
"I know he is not a man of faith. He's not a true Christian. He claims to be a pastor, but he is furthest from that title," Musri said. "The man is after fame."
Musri said in the Middle East, Jones is considered a representative of the United States.
"I've talked to many people by telephone, and said 'what do you know about the man?' They said 'oh, this is a Christan pastor, leader of Christians in America. He always speaks about America,' Mosri said. "Because he portrayed himself when he did "Judge the Koran day", he set up a courtroom in his church and he wore the robes, and he looked like a judge. People don't understand that you can do this here. People think that he must be part of the government."
Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.
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