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Soldiers, drug gang battle in Rio de Janeiro slum; Intense gunfire closes avenues, schools

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian soldiers and drug gang members have engaged in an intense and prolonged gunbattle in a Rio de Janeiro slum that killed at least one person.

Traffic on a main highway halted at one point, with motorists sheltering behind cars and buses as soldiers and gang members traded gunfire Wednesday.

PHOTO: People take cover behind a concrete guardrail separating lanes on Avenida Brasil during a conflict between Brazilian Navy soldiers and alleged drug traffickers, near an entrance of Vila do Joao slum, part of the Complexo da Mare, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Pictured in the background are Navy armored vehicles and soldiers. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
People take cover behind a concrete guardrail separating lanes on Avenida Brasil during a conflict between Brazilian Navy soldiers and alleged drug traffickers, near an entrance of Vila do Joao slum, part of the Complexo da Mare, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Pictured in the background are Navy armored vehicles and soldiers. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The fighting calmed at nightfall, and authorities confirmed the death of one suspected gang member.

The violence erupted early Wednesday when rival gangs began fighting in the Mare complex of slums, which have been patrolled by troops since April. Soldiers then intervened.

Mare is one of several impoverished areas in Rio where police or soldiers have tried to push out gangs and set up permanent posts as part of efforts to make Rio safer ahead of the 2016 Olympics.

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