Shot U.S. congresswoman out of surgery, five others confirmed dead

10:31, January 09, 2011      

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A medical helicopter evacuates victims from a "Congress on Your Corner" event in Tucson, Arizona, where U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) among others were shot and seriously wounded, in this still image taken from video released on January 8. 2011. Giffords, a 40-year-old Democrat in her third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, was airlifted to a hospital in Tucson on Saturday shortly after being shot in the head at point blank range at a Safeway supermarket in the Arizona city. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Five people were confirmed dead in a mass shooting on Saturday morning in Tucson, the U.S. state of Arizona, which also left 13 others injured, including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

Giffords, who was shot in the head, has undergone a surgery and is expected to recover, Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup said at a press conference in the afternoon.

"Giffords is still alive," the mayor stressed. Some U.S. media reported earlier that the congresswoman was already dead.

The mayor added that among those wounded, five underwent surgeries and five others were in critical condition.

Giffords was shot one time and the bullet went through her head, according to a spokesman at the hospital where Giffords is being treated.

"The congresswoman is not deceased," but is in critical condition and "is under intensive care" after the surgery, said the spokesman.

The doctor treating Giffords for the gunshot wounds, Dr. Peter Rhee at Tucson's University Medical Center, said at the press conference that he was quite "optimistic" about her recovery.

Meanwhile, authorities confirmed that the shooting had at least 18 victims, with five of them already dead.

U.S. District Judge John Roll and a nine-year-old girl were among those killed, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement, calling the incident a "tragedy for our entire country. "

The president added that Giffords was still "battling for her life" and that the motive of the attack remained unknown.

Giffords' spokesman C.J. Karamargin said an unspecified number of the congresswoman's staff members were injured in the shooting.

Congressional officials said an aide to Giffords was killed, but few details were released about the Giffords staff members.

Giffords was meeting with her constituents at a public event outside a grocery store in Tucson when the shooting occurred at about 10:00 a.m..

Arizona law enforcement officials said a gunman in the crowd shot Giffords, a 40-year-old Democrat. Witnesses said they heard 15 to 20 shots.

Pima County Sheriff's officials said the gunman used a pistol to carry out the rampage. The suspect has been taken into custody.

People familiar with the investigation identified the gunman as Jared Loughner, 22.

The FBI reportedly has taken over the investigation.

Giffords, a moderate Democrat, serves the 8th Congressional District, which includes a 114-mile stretch of the U.S. border with Mexico. She was re-elected to her third term last November.

During last year's campaign, Giffords touted her efforts to push the Obama administration to deploy National Guard troops to the border, and for playing an instrumental role in securing 600 million dollars in funding to add more technology and Border Patrol agents.

Giffords opposed SB 1070, Arizona's new controversial immigration law, calling it "divisive," and supported instead a comprehensive immigration reform at the national level, according to The Arizona Republic, a local newspaper.

Giffords was a member of the Arizona House and Senate before going to Washington.

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was shot during an appearance in Tucson, Arizona is seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional office in Washington, January 8, 2011. Giffords was shot in the head while holding a public event in Tucson, Arizona on January 8, 2011. Giffords, 40, a Democrat, is married to U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly. She took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Source: Xinhua
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