A US congresswoman has been shot in the head and five other people have been killed by a gunman in Arizona. Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, 40, was shot at close range in front of hundreds of people at a public meeting in Tucson.
She is in a critical condition, but the doctor treating her said he was “very optimistic about her recovery”. President Barack Obama said the dead included a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge he named as John Roll. The Associated Press news agency reported that one of Ms Giffords’ political aides was also killed in the shooting.
At least nine other people were wounded in the attack – four of them were described as being in a critical condition. A suspect named in local media as 22-year-old Arizona resident Jared Loughner was arrested after the incident.
Ms Giffords, who represents the eighth district of Arizona in the House of Representatives, is married to space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly. She has served on several congressional committees, including those covering the armed services and foreign affairs.
Mr Obama described Ms Giffords as a personal friend and an “extraordinary public servant”. He said the shooting was “a tragedy for our entire country”. “What Americans do, at times of tragedy, is to come together, and support each other,” he said.
“So, at this time, I ask all Americans to join me, and Michelle in keeping all the victims, and their families, including Gaby, in our thoughts and prayers. Jeff Rogers, chairman of the local Democrats, told the BBC that Ms Giffords was “a rising star” in the party with hopes of eventually winning the Arizona Senate seat.
He described her as “a wonderful congresswoman and a wonderful person”, adding: “We just can’t continue to have this kind of carnage on school campuses and against public officials.” The Republican Speaker of the House or Representatives, John Boehner, said: “I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff.
“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country.”
- Represents the eighth district of Arizona in the House
- First elected in 2006, re-elected to third term last November
- Has focused on immigration reform, military issues, stem-cell research and alternative energy
- Grew up in Tucson, Arizona
- Married to US astronaut Mark Kelly