MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish prosecutors said on Monday that pro-independence activists arrested in Catalonia were in the midst of “advanced” preparations and have been charged with “rebellion, terrorism and possession of explosives.”

The nine arrests, carried out during raids early Monday morning, were aimed at aborting actions that “could have caused irreparable damages,” prosecutors said in a statement.

The movement calling for Catalonia’s separation from Spain has been a major challenge for the country for years, triggering its biggest political crisis in decades with a short-lived independence declaration in 2017.

Reporting by Ashifa Kassam and Jose Elias Rodriguez, edited by Jesus Aguado