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Husband: I thought she was dead

The husband of shot US politician Gabrielle Giffords has said he believed for about 20 minutes that his wife was dead after seeing a TV news report that said wrongly that his wife had been fatally wounded.

Democrat Ms Giffords, 40, is recovering in a Tucson, Arizona hospital from a gunshot wound to the head after a gunman targeted her in a rampage outside a supermarket that killed six people and wounded 13 on January 8.

Astronaut Mark Kelly told ABC's Diane Sawyer in a TV interview that he rushed aboard a friend's plane to fly to Arizona and while on the plane saw the TV report.

"I just, you know, walked into the bathroom, and you know, broke down," he said. "To hear that she died is just, it's devastating for me."

Mr Kelly said he learned that she was alive when he called Ms Giffords' mother, who was outside the operating theatre at the hospital where the congresswoman was being treated.

Mr Kelly also said he was sure Ms Giffords recognised him at her hospital bed, since she has continued with a habit of playing with his wedding ring - moving it up and down his finger and sometimes putting it on her thumb.

"She's done that before," he said. "She'll do that if we're sitting in a restaurant. She'll do the same exact movements."

Mr Kelly added that Ms Giffords was not aware that six people had died in the shooting, including Gabe Zimmerman, one of her staff members. He also said he probably would not want her to return to the US Congress.

"But I know that's probably not going to matter to her. I think she's such a devoted public servant that she's going to come out of this and be more resolved to fix things," he said.

Doctors said Ms Giffords, who is in a serious condition, continues to improve physically and neurologically.

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