The iPhone 6. (AP)
Charleston - Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called for a boycott of Apple until the computer giant complies with US government demands to unlock the iPhone of a suspect in the San Bernardino attacks.
"Apple ought to give the security for that phone, OK?" Trump told a campaign rally in Pawleys Island, South Carolina on Friday.
"What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until such time as they give that security number," he said. "I just thought of it. Boycott Apple."
The government sought a court order on Friday to force Apple to help unlock the iPhone as part of the probe into last year's San Bernardino attacks, escalating a legal showdown over encryption.
Apple had pledged this week to fight a magistrate's order to assist in unlocking the phone used by one of the shooters.
"First of all, the phone's not even owned by this young thug that killed all these people. The phone's owned by the government," Trump said.
Suspect Syed Farook, who was killed in a shootout with authorities after the attack that left 14 dead, worked for the county in California where the December rampage occurred.
Trump lashed out at Apple chief executive Tim Cook, saying he was "looking to do a big number, probably to show how liberal he is."
The motion brought by the Justice Department sought to debunk Apple's claim that cooperating with the FBI probe would undermine overall security for its devices, and laid out the legal case for technical assistance.
Trump followed up his rally boycott calls with a series of posts on Twitter, in which he said he uses both Apple and Samsung telephones, but "I'll only be using Samsung until they give info".
"Hopefully others will follow suit," he added.
At his final rally on the eve of the primary, he again urged voters to boycott Apple.
"They don't want to open up the phones. Give me a break," he sneered.
But the billionaire businessman, who has spoken for months about luring American businesses back to the US and punishing those that refuse, signaled he still wanted the Cupertino, California-based Apple to bring manufacturing jobs back.
"I want to see the day when Apple makes its products on our land," Trump said to applause.
"We're going to bring our jobs back to this country."