A pipeline carrying oil byproducts exploded in a southern Iraqi city Tuesday, sparking a massive fire and killing at least 36 people, the Interior Ministry said.

Several people had been siphoning fuel from the pipeline when the explosion occurred in an industrial zone south of Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, police Lt. Raid Jabir said.

The Interior Ministry in Baghdad said 36 people were killed and 45 were injured. The reason for the explosion was not immediately clear.

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The pipeline is located six miles south of Diwaniyah.

It was originally used to transport gas from the Shuaiba oil field in Basra to the Musayyib power station, but former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein converted it in 2003 to hold gasoline reserves for the army, Jabir said.

CountryWatch: Iraq

He said locals made a hole in the pipeline to siphon off fuel after the fall of Saddam's regime in 2003.

The town was the scene of fierce clashes between the Iraqi army and Shiite militia on Monday that left more than 70 people dead, but the situation on Tuesday was calm, the army said.

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