Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian anti-government demonstrators gather at Cairo's Tahrir Square on the 16th consecutive day of protests demanding the ouster of embattled President Hosni Mubarak. –AFP Photot/Pedro Ugarte

WASHINGTON: Al Qaeda-front group The Islamic State of Iraq has called on Egyptian protesters to wage jihad and push for the establishment of a government based on Islamic law, the US-based SITE monitoring service said Tuesday.

The statement, which appears to be the first reaction of any group affiliated with al Qaeda to the ongoing protests in Egypt, was issued on jihadist forums on February 8, according to the US group.

The message, addressed to the protesters, says that the “market of jihad” has opened in Egypt and “the doors of martyrdom have opened,” and every able-bodied man must participate.

The group urged Egyptians to ignore the “ignorant deceiving ways” of secularism, democracy, and “rotten pagan nationalism.”

“Your jihad,” the message said, is in support of Islam, the weak and oppressed in Egypt, for “your people” in Gaza and Iraq, and “for every Muslim who was touched by the oppression of the tyrant of Egypt and his masters in Washington and Tel Aviv,” read a translation of the text provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Protestors in Cairo on Tuesday staged the biggest show of defiance against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the three-week-old revolt.

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