Catalan separatists arrested in Spain over 'attack plot'

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Media captionPolice raid houses at dawn in Catalonia

Spanish police say they have arrested nine people suspected of planning a series of violent attacks for the anniversary of a divisive referendum.

The suspects are described as Catalan separatists by police sources, who say they plotted to strike on 1 October.

That will be the second anniversary of a Catalan independence referendum declared illegal by Spanish courts.

Materials that can be used to make bombs were found during raids across the Catalonia region, police say.

But explosive experts have yet to determine whether there was any plan to develop explosives from the materials found, Spain's acting interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, says.

The detainees belong to a group that has led recent protests, according to police.

Known as the Technical Response Teams, they are seen as the most militant arm of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs).

But they are not known to have plotted or carried out violent attacks before.

Police raided 10 addresses in Barcelona, ​​Sabadell and Santa Perpètua de Mogoda at 05:00 local time (03:00 GMT) on Monday.

Computer hardware and documents were seized, police say, in addition to the arrests. They say they have not ruled out making further arrests.

Image caption Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region of Spain

The CDRs were created by Catalan separatists a month before the 2017 referendum, to carry out its implementation.

Separatists say there has been no violence in their campaign.

On Twitter, the CDRs called for protests over the arrests, which it characterised as an act of repression by Spanish officials.

Last year, an activist with links to CDR was arrested amid similar allegations. But she was released after a judge ruled that the evidence collected against her at most suggested plans to create a public disturbance and not acts of terror, as the prosecutor's office had claimed.

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Media captionWhat did Catalonia's 2017 referendum achieve?

Catalonia's unauthorised independence referendum two years ago - which saw the semi-autonomous attempt to unilaterally declare itself a separate state from Spain - led to an ongoing political crisis.

The region had its autonomy suspended for almost seven months by Madrid over the failed bid to break away.

There is also tension ahead of the verdicts for 12 Catalan separatist leaders who organised the drive for independence. They are on trial for sedition and rebellion – which they deny.

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