"The Iraqis, men, women, children and elderly people should unite and work solidly together to chase those evil terrorists everywhere until Iraq's land is purged of their filth and viciousness," Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi said in a statement on Thursday.

"All other countries and individuals should extend help to Iraq to enable its people to exterminate those wantons and despots," Tantawi said.

The statement included 10 items explaining "the pillars of Islam" that deal with religious, ideological and political issues supporting Tantawi's ideas, with excerpts from the Quran, Islam's holy book to support his points.

No differentiation

Islam does not differentiate between people, whatever their origin, Tantawi argued, in what is one of the strongest condemnations of the violence plaguing Iraq since the end of the US-led invasion in May 2003.

Tantawi's influence however, is limited, since he is appointed to his position by the government and is seen to espouse its policies and attitudes on a wide range of issues.  

"All other countries and individuals should extend help to Iraq to enable its people to exterminate those [terrorists] and despots"

Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, Egypt's Grand Imam

"Chasing these criminals determinedly and steadily until finishing them off is a duty of everyone, be it a ruler or anybody else and anyone who shelters them is considered partner to their crimes," Tantawi said.

The grand imam said the most heinous crimes committed by those "corrupt on earth ... is the killing of innocent people, kidnapping honest people and then killing them in a savage way."

Speaking out

He strongly condemned Wednesday's killing of 27 people including 18 children and teenagers by a bomber in Iraq and said "this massacre was carried out by a vicious criminal from those terrorists whose corruption has spread everywhere."

Tantawi also mentioned last week's kidnapping and killing of Egypt's top envoy to Iraq by the al-Qaida network saying "those sinners charged him (the envoy) with false accusations then killed him in a way that only God know how ugly, mean and low it was."

Tantawi, earlier this month met former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi and in published remarks later said "killing your Iraqi brothers or blowing up an Iraqi oil pipeline is not resisting the enemy, but killing yourself, the men, the women and the children, sabotaging homes, minds and dignity."