SEOUL-- South Korea on Thursday advised its citizens to refrain from visiting Catalonia, northern Spain, due to growing separatist protests.

The foreign ministry raised its travel alert for the region, which includes Barcelona, from blue, or travel caution, to yellow, or travel restraint.

Riots have continued in several Catalan towns after lengthy prison sentences were handed down to nine leaders of the region's drive for independence from Spain. Protesters have clashed violently with riot police in Barcelona, leaving nearly 100 people injured, according to media reports.

The warning is to ensure the safety of South Koreans staying in or planning a trip to the region, the ministry said, adding that it will keep close tabs on the protests and overall security situation there.

Source: Yonhap News Agency