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updated: 10/1/2012 8:47 AM

Pipeline fire in southeast Nigeria kills 20

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Associated Press

ABUJA, Nigeria -- A government spokesman says 20 people in southeast Nigeria died when a broken gasoline pipeline caught fire, burning alive those gathering the fuel.

The fire happened in a remote village in Abia state, near Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta. Abia state government spokesman Ugochukwu Emezue said Monday that the fire happened Sept. 23, but it took days for the information to reach officials.

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Pipeline ruptures remain common in Nigeria, an oil-rich nation where militants and criminals routinely tap into lines to steal crude oil and refined gasoline. Fires can easily and accidentlally be sparked by those attempting to gather the fuel.

In September, Nigeria's state-run oil company said suspected thieves shot dead three of its workers in southeast Ogun state after rupturing a gasoline pipeline to steal fuel.

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