Cairo: A leading Egyptian jihadist, who fought in Afghanistan on the side of militant Taliban, has called for the removal of the world-famed Pyramids and the Sphinx, branding them idols.

Al Gohari, who was imprisoned twice in the era of Hosni Mubarak but released by a court verdict after the 2011 popular uprising that toppled the long-standing president. told the privately owned Egyptian Dream TV: “We destroyed the Buddha statues in Afghanistan and will destroy the Sphinx and the Pyramids because they are idols.

“The Muslims are obliged to apply the Sharia (Islamic law), including the removal of the idols.”

Last week, thousands of Islamists rallied to Tahrir Square in Cairo, demanding that the new constitution be based on the Sharia, while organisers pledged to rally again on Friday to press their demands.

Formerly oppressed Islamists have been dominating Egypt’s political scene since Mubarak’s fall, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Mursi becoming Egypt’s president in June.

Al Gohari said that his group, called the Jihadi Salafist, comprises 50 members who participated in demolishing the centuries-old Buddha statues in Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001.

“We are resolved to destroy all idols existing in Egypt if President Mursi does not heed our call,” he said.

“A competent Muslim ruler should destroy the Pyramids and the Sphinx,” said Al Gohari.

The two monuments are landmarks in Egypt’s wealth of antiquities and are key attractions in the tourism industry, which has been hard hit by security breakdown that gripped the country in the wake of the revolt against Mubarak.

A senior government official dismissed Al Gohari’s threat as “hallucinations”.

“No-one dares to harm the Egyptian antiquities, especially the Sphinx and Pyramids because countries of the world protect them,” said Mohsin Ali, the chief of the government’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Authorities have beefed up security in the area surrounding the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza south of Cairo, reported local media.