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Giffords to resign from Congress

Gabrielle Giffords is to step down from the US Congress this week to concentrate on recovering from wounds suffered in an assassination attempt a little more than a year ago that shocked America.

"I don't remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice," the Arizona Democrat said on a video posted on her Facebook page.

"I'm getting better. Every day my spirit is high. I have more work to do on my recovery. So to do what's best for Arizona, I will step down this week."

Ms Giffords, 41, was shot in the head last January as she was meeting constituents outside a supermarket in Tucson. The shooting left six people dead, including a judge and one of Ms Giffords' aides. Thirteen others were wounded, including Ms Giffords.

Her progress had seemed remarkable, to the point that she was able to walk dramatically into the House of Representatives chamber in August to cast a vote.

Party chiefs had hoped she might recover sufficiently to run for re-election or even become a candidate to replace retiring Republican senator Jon Kyl. Under state law, Arizona governor Jan Brewer must call a special election to fill out the remainder of Ms Giffords' term, which ends at the end of this year.

President Barack Obama called Ms Giffords "the very best of what public service should be".

"Gabby's cheerful presence will be missed in Washington," he said. "But she will remain an inspiration to all whose lives she touched - myself included. And I'm confident that we haven't seen the last of this extraordinary American."

Jared Loughner, 23, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges over the shooting. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is being forcibly medicated at a Missouri prison in an attempt by authorities to make him mentally ready for trial.

Ms Giffords later vowed to finish the Tucson meet-and-greet political event that erupted in the deadly shooting spree. Her office said that her final act as congresswoman in her district would be to meet some of the people who were at the Congress On Your Corner event in a Safeway car park.

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