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US congresswoman is shot in head

US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is in a critical condition after being shot in the head while a nine-year-old girl and at least two others have been killed after an assailant opened fire as the Democrat was meeting constituents in Arizona, congressional officials said.

The officials said one of the victims, an aide to Ms Giffords, died soon after the attack and others injured in the attack were taken to a nearby hospital. A US Marshal confirmed that district Judge John Roll also died.

One official added the attack was carried out with an automatic weapon. US Capitol police say the gunman, who has been identified as Jared Laughner, is in custody.

The FBI and local law enforcement officials are investigating the attack, which took place while Ms Giffords was greeting constituents outside a shop in Tucson.

A doctor at the hospital in Tucson said a girl aged around nine was killed in the shooting and there were five others in a critical condition.

In addition, Ms Giffords was said to be "following commands" but was under anaesthetic following surgery. He said the congresswoman had been shot once, "through and through", with the bullet passing through her brain.

Ms Giffords, 40, was re-elected to her third term last November. She was a member of the Arizona House and Senate before coming to Washington. She first won election to Congress amid a wave of Democratic victories in 2006.

She is married to astronaut Mark E Kelly, who has piloted space shuttles Endeavour and Discovery. The two met in China in 2003 while they were serving on a committee there, and were married in January 2007.

President Barack Obama called the shooting "an unspeakable tragedy" and that such "a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society".


From Belfast Telegraph