The U.S. military’s top officer has urged a controversial Christian pastor to disavow a film that has ignited violent protests over its portrayal of the Islamic faith, a spokesman said Wednesday.
A day after a deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi possibly sparked by the movie, General Martin Dempsey made a direct appeal to Pastor Terry Jones to reject the film to defuse tensions.
“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,” his spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said in an email.
“He asked Mr Jones to consider withdrawing his support for the film,” he said.
The attack in Benghazi killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three colleagues, while at least five other Americans were wounded, officials said.
Pentagon officials worry the outrage caused by the amateur, American-made film -- which mocks Islam’s revered prophet Mohammed -- could spark violence in Afghanistan and endanger troops in NATO’s US-led force there.
The Taliban earlier on Wednesday called on Afghans to prepare for a fight against Americans and urged insurgents to “take revenge” on U.S. soldiers over the film.
There are 74,000 U.S. troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Jones has repeatedly denounced Islam and has presided over the burning of the Quran. Former defense secretary Robert Gates placed a phone call to Jones in 2010 asking him to drop plans to burn the Islamic holy book.
Jones relented but his threatened plan sparked deadly protests in Islamic countries. He later went ahead and torched the Quran in 2011, which prompted more violent reaction in Afghanistan.
Along with Jones, the movie has been promoted by Maurice Sadek, a controversial Egyptian Coptic figure living in the United States.
On Wednesday, Egypt placed 10 mainly Coptic figures in the diaspora under a watch list including Sadek and Jones.