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Blaze Destroys Istanbul Cargo Terminal

A huge fire Wednesday destroyed the cargo section of Istanbul's Ataturk airport. Authorities ruled out sabotage or an act of terror as the cause, even though an extremist Kurdish faction claimed responsibility.

The fire at Istanbul airport broke out around noon local time and quickly engulfed the cargo area, prompting fears that it would spread to the main terminal.

Firefighters used planes to douse the fire, but the blaze destroyed most of the cargo area. Three people were injured in the blaze and air traffic was not disrupted. Officials discounted terrorism as the cause of the fire, and blamed it instead on a possible short circuit or a welder's torch.

But in a statement faxed to the international media, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons claimed responsibility. The group is the urban guerrilla arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK.

The rebel group began an armed campaign - initially for independence and later for autonomy - in 1984. More than 30,000 people have died in the fighting. The Falcons have targeted Turkey's multi- billion dollar tourism industry in the past.

Ataturk airport is a hub for international tourism in Turkey.

The government refuses to talk to the PKK, which is on the State Department's official list of terrorist organizations.

Violence has been steadily escalating in the predominantly Kurdish southeast region since June 2004 when the PKK ended a five-year unilateral truce.