U.S. congresswoman target of shooting spree, second suspect targeted

12:39, January 09, 2011      

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Handout photo of Jared Loughner, suspected in the shooting of a federal judge, congresswoman and others in Arizona on Saturday. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

An Arizona sheriff on Saturday believed U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was target of the shooting spree in Tucson.

Five people were confirmed dead in the 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 still battling for life.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told a news conference in Tucson that the suspected gunman has "a troubled past" and used a semi-automatic pistol in the rampage.

The sheriff also said police are hunting for a second man in connection with the shooting. Police have photo of the possible suspect, he said.

Earlier, Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup said at a press conference that "Giffords is still alive," rejecting local reports saying that the congresswoman had already died.

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.

Handout photo of Jared Loughner, suspected in the shooting of a federal judge, congresswoman and others in Arizona on Saturday. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Source: Xinhua
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