SANAA – A Yemeni court sentenced six men to death on Tuesday for attacks that killed nine Spanish and Belgian tourists over the past two years.

Ten others were sentenced to jail terms ranging from eight to 15 years. The defendants shouted religious chants of defiance and prayed as each sentence was announced.

Yemen has been battling a wave of al Qaeda attacks as well as a rebellion by a Shi’ite sect in the north and secessionist sentiment in the south.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has said it fears instability in Yemen could allow it to become a launch pad for a revival of a 2003-2006 campaign by al Qaeda militants to destabilise the U.S.-allied ruling Al Saud family.

The men, 11 Yemenis, four Syrians and a Saudi of Yemeni origin, were found guilty of attacks including one that killed seven Spanish tourists at the Queen of Sheba temple in Marib in 2007 and two Belgian tourists in the Hadramaut region in 2008.

The charge sheet included mortar attacks on the U.S. and Italian embassies and a foreign housing complex in Sanaa, all claimed by the al Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as an attempted attack on an oil refinery.