The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other American diplomats were killed Tuesday in riots sparked by outrage over a movie made by a California filmmaker and promoted by Gainesville pastor Terry Jones, who's best known for this threats to burn Qurans two years ago, leading to days of unrest and as many as 20 deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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.
The film, titled "Innocence of Muslims," produced by Sam Bacile, who describes himself as an Israeli Jew, was cited as a likely cause of the deadly attack, but Clinton 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.
Jones showed the trailer for the film on Tuesday during what he called, "International Judge Mohammad Day."
Jones was unapologetic about his role in the attack.
"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."
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones Wednesday morning to express his concerns about the film, saying it could inflame tensions and trigger violence.
Dempsey spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Jones did not say whether he would limit or continue his backing of the movie.