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Gabrielle Giffords, wounded U.S. congresswoman, discharged from hospital

Gabrielle Giffords, the U.S. congresswoman who was shot in the head by a gunman in January, was discharged on Wednesday from the Houston hospital where she had been recovering from her severe wounds, the hospital said.

TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital said in a statement that Ms. Giffords, 41, would soon begin outpatient treatment at the same facility. The Arizona Democrat's cognitive abilities and physical strength had improved, it said.

"Congresswoman Giffords has shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR five months ago," said Gerard Francisco, the hospital's chief medical officer. "We are very excited that she has reached the next phase of her rehabilitation and can begin outpatient treatment. We have no doubt that she will continue to make significant strides in her recovery."

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Ms. Giffords was shot in the head at close range by a gunman who opened fire at her and a crowd of bystanders at a political event on Jan. 8 outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. Twelve other people were also wounded, and six were killed, including a federal judge, a young girl and one of Giffords' aides.

The 22-year-old man charged with the shooting, Jared Loughner, was recently declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and was sent back to a Missouri hospital for federal prisoners last month.

Ms. Giffords spent the first three weeks after the shooting hospitalized in Tucson, then was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston on Jan. 21 to begin rehabilitation.

Ms. Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin told Reuters on Sunday her abilities were improving weekly and that discussions were under way for Ms. Giffords to resume more active duties with her congressional office.

On Sunday, the first photos of Ms. Giffords since she was shot were released on her Facebook page. Taken the day before Ms. Giffords had cranioplasty surgery and the day after the launch of the Endeavour space shuttle mission commanded by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, the photographs showed a smiling Ms. Giffords with short hair, a scar on her throat from her tracheotomy and a slight indentation to her left temple, where a piece of her skull was removed.

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