Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was in critical condition after being shot in the head at point blank range by Jared Lee Loughner, was moved by air to a rehabilitation centre in Houston Texas on Friday.

Loughner, now in police custody, went on a rampage with a Glock semiautomatic pistol in a crowded marketplace in Tucson, Arizona on January 8. He killed six others, including nine-year-old Christina Green, and gravely injured Ms. Giffords. The shooting shocked the nation and sparked off a debate on gun control laws and the bitterness of political rhetoric in the U.S.

Despite the seriousness of Ms. Gifford’s injuries, her doctors at University Medical Center of Tucson had struck a hopeful note on her prospects for a gradual recovery in the days following the shooting.

Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, had earlier said to media, “I can just look in her eyes and tell... she is very aware of the situation.” He added that Ms. Giffords had tried to speak and could recognise those around her.

Randall Friese, an Arizona surgeon who accompanied Ms. Giffords on her transfer to Texas Medical Center in Houston, described the process as “flawless,” and said that she had smiled and even “teared up” when she heard applause from her supporters in Tucson who had lined the street to cheer her ambulance on its way.

“It was heartwrenching [and] wonderful to hear the support Tucsonians and Arizonians have for Gabby... We love her; we're going to miss her while she's here. But this is where she needs to be.”

According to reports Ms. Giffords will remain at the Houston trauma center’s Intensive Care Unit through at least early next week, to effect drainage of a fluid build-up in her brain. During the surgery following the attack doctors had already removed dead brain tissue and skull fragments from her head.

Dong Kim, Chairman of the Neurosurgery Department at the University of Texas Medical School said, “She looks spectacular in all ways. She is alert, awake [and] calm. She looks comfortable.”

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