ADEN -- Between April and June, the Iran-backed Houthis led the region in terms of the number of terrorist attacks they committed, overtaking the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) -- a group well known for its brutality.
The Houthis carried out 57 attacks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia in the second quarter of 2021, according to the quarterly Terrorism Index in the Arab Region, produced by the Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights.
The Egypt-based foundation seeks to promote the values and practices of social peace, development and democracy and good governance and to combat all forms of violence, conflict and the absence of justice, according to its website.
According to the foundation's July 18 report, ISIS committed some 47 terrorist attacks during the same time frame, the majority of which were concentrated in Iraq and Syria.
The report recorded an overall uptick in the number of terror attacks in the region, with more than 212 recorded in the second quarter, compared to 169 in the first three months of this year.
The Houthis targeted Saudi Arabia with about 44 attacks, the report said, noting that the kingdom ranked second after Iraq on the list of countries most affected by terror attacks during the three-month reporting period.
In terms of terror-related deaths, Yemen ranked third, after Somalia and Syria. The report documented 185 deaths in Somalia, 81 in Syria and 75 in Yemen.
Terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, said Maat Foundation head Ayman Aqil.
It is a major threat to civilians, he said, given the intimidation and indiscriminate violence armed groups engage in as they attempt to achieve political goals.
Groups that engage in terrorist activity do not care about human or material losses, the cost of which is primarily borne by civilians and undermines and delays development opportunities in the countries where attacks occur, Aqil said.
Iran's influence in Yemen
The Houthis' ranking in the quarterly Terrorism Index is "a reflection of the escalating Iranian aggression against the countries of the region", said Yemen's Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez.
"The Houthis operate in accordance with Iran's interests," he said.
This has become clearer since the arrival in October 2020 of Iran's ambassador to the Houthis, Hassan Eyrlou, he said, noting that Eyrlou now directs the Houthis' military operations.
Since the ambassador's arrival, the Houthis have increased attacks against civilians and have ramped up their human rights violations, Abdul Hafeez said.
Eyrlou turned Yemen "into an arena in which the Iranian side flexes its muscles, so we are not surprised by this characterisation and classification of this pro-Iran group", he said, referring to the latest Terrorism Index data.
"The Houthis have allied themselves with international terrorist groups and with Iran to threaten regional security, and are threatening to overrun the Arabian Peninsula," said Abaad Studies and Research Centre director Abdulsalam Mohammed.
This makes it clear that the Houthis are "a cross-border terrorist movement, and not a national liberation movement", Mohammed said.
"It is not surprising that they took the top rank over other terrorist groups, because they have carried out terrorist acts of all kinds," he added.
The Houthis "reached power by force of arms, then rebelled against the state", he said.
Since their 2014 coup in Sanaa, the Iran-backed group has carried out assassinations, blown up the homes of its opponents, bombed schools and places of worship, and occupied military and civilian facilities.