Gabrielle Giffords: First photos of shot congresswoman

First photo of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords since she was shot, issued on her Facebook page 12 July 2011. Ms Giffords was seen smiling in the pictures, released on her Facebook page

US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has released the first pictures of herself since she was shot in the head in January.

Two pictures appeared on her Facebook page.

Ms Giffords, 41, was seriously injured during a shooting spree by a gunman in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six people and wounded 13 others.

She is being treated at a clinic in Houston, Texas. Doctors say she has been recovering well.

In an interview with The Arizona Republic published on Thursday, Ms Giffords' Chief of Staff Pia Carusone said she still had only limited speaking ability.

But Ms Carusone told the Associated Press news agency on Saturday that she could be released from the rehabilitation clinic in the coming weeks.

In one of the pictures released on Sunday, Ms Giffords is smiling at the camera.

In the other, she is sitting with a woman. Both photographs were taken on 17 May, the accompanying text says.

Many well-wishers left messages on the page, including: "Gabby, you look wonderful! Keep up the fight to get well."

The shooting happened on 8 January near Tucson, Arizona, outside a supermarket where Ms Giffords was meeting constituents.

Since then, the only time the public has been able to get a glimpse of her was in April, when footage showed her from a distance boarding a plane to watch her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, launch into space in Florida.

A suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, has been arrested and accused of carrying out the shooting. He has pleaded not guilty.

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