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France is trying Syrian ex-officials for the torture and killing of a father and son. Here's why

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France is trying Syrian ex-officials for the torture and killing of a father and son. Here's why
News

News

France is trying Syrian ex-officials for the torture and killing of a father and son. Here's why

2024-05-21 16:40 Last Updated At:16:51

PARIS (AP) — The Syrian soldiers came first, at night, for the son, Patrick, a 20-year-old psychology student at Damascus University, and said they were taking him away for questioning.

They came back the next night for his father, Mazen.

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Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, second left, arrives at the court room with Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish, center, Obeida Dabbagh,brother of Mazen Dabbagh, second right and his wife Hanane, Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at the courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick and his father Mazen. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AP) — The Syrian soldiers came first, at night, for the son, Patrick, a 20-year-old psychology student at Damascus University, and said they were taking him away for questioning.

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte answers reporters Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at a courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick Dabbagh and his father Mazen. The four-day hearings, starting Tuesday, are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte answers reporters Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at a courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick Dabbagh and his father Mazen. The four-day hearings, starting Tuesday, are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, left, arrives at the court room with Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish, second left, Obeida Dabbagh,brother of Mazen Dabbagh, second right and his wife Hanane, Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at the courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick and his father Mazen. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, left, arrives at the court room with Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish, second left, Obeida Dabbagh,brother of Mazen Dabbagh, second right and his wife Hanane, Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at the courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick and his father Mazen. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte answers reporters Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at a courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick Dabbagh and his father Mazen. The four-day hearings, starting Tuesday, are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte answers reporters Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at a courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick Dabbagh and his father Mazen. The four-day hearings, starting Tuesday, are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

FILE - In this photo released on Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria. In a landmark trial, a Paris court will this week seek Tuesday May 21, 2024 to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials were responsible for Patrick and Mazzen Dabbagh's disappearance and deaths. The hearings are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's regime has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to keep power in Syria's civil war. (SANA via AP, File)

FILE - In this photo released on Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria. In a landmark trial, a Paris court will this week seek Tuesday May 21, 2024 to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials were responsible for Patrick and Mazzen Dabbagh's disappearance and deaths. The hearings are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's regime has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to keep power in Syria's civil war. (SANA via AP, File)

Five years later, in 2018, death certificates from Syrian authorities confirmed to the Dabbagh family that the French-Syrian father and son would never come home again.

In a landmark trial, a Paris court is seeking this week to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for their disappearance and deaths.

The four-day hearings started Tuesday and are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year.

The French trial comes as Assad has been regaining an aura of international respectability, starting to shed his longtime status as a pariah that stemmed from the violence unleashed on his opponents. Human rights groups that are parties to the French case hope it will refocus attention on alleged atrocities.

Here's a look at those involved:

— Ali Mamlouk, former head of the National Security Bureau overseeing Syrian security and intelligence services. Allegedly worked directly with Assad. Now in his late 70s.

— Jamil Hassan, former Air Force intelligence director. Survivors testifying in the case allege having seen him at a detention center in the capital, Damascus, where the Dabbaghs are thought to have been held. In his early 70s.

— Salam Mahmoud, in his mid-60s, a former investigations official at a Damascus military airport believed to house the detention center. Mahmoud is alleged to have expropriated the Dabbaghs' house after they were taken away.

The three men are accused of provoking crimes against humanity, giving instructions to commit them and allowing subordinates to commit them through the alleged arrest, torture and killing of the father and son. They also are accused of confiscating their house and of putting Air Force intelligence services at the disposal of people who allegedly killed them.

The accused are being tried in absentia. French magistrates issued arrest warrants for them in October 2018, despite acknowledging that there was little likelihood of their extradition to France. There were no defense lawyers to represent them as the hearings got underway Tuesday morning. French magistrates determined they don't have diplomatic immunity.

“The three people accused are very senior officials of the Syrian system of repression and torture. This gives a particular tone to this trial. They are not small fish,” said Patrick Baudouin, a lawyer for rights groups involved in the case.

“The legal file is very detailed, full of evidence of systematic, very diverse and absolutely monstrous torture practices," Baudouin said.

Patrick and Mazen Dabbagh had dual French-Syrian nationality, which enabled French magistrates to pursue the case. The probe of their disappearance started in 2015 when Obeida Dabbagh, Mazen's brother, testified to investigators already examining war crimes in Syria.

Obeida Dabbagh lives in France with his wife, Hanane, and is also a party in the case. According to the trial indictment, seen by The Associated Press, he told French investigators that three or four soldiers came for Patrick around 11 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2013, during the height of Arab Spring-inspired anti-government protests that were met by a brutal crackdown. The soldiers identified themselves as members of a Syrian Air Force intelligence branch. Obeida also testified they searched the house, taking cellphones, computers and money.

They came back the next night for Mazen Dabbagh, who was 54 and worked as a counselor at a French high school in Damascus, and also took his new car, the brother said.

Their death certificates said Patrick died Jan. 21, 2014, and Mazen on Nov. 25, 2017, but didn't say how or where.

French investigating magistrates collected evidence from those who deserted the Syrian government and military, and prison survivors as they built the case.

Testifying anonymously, survivors' accounts speak in the indictment of rape and of being denied food and water; of beatings on the feet, knees and elsewhere with whips, cables and truncheons; of electric shocks and burnings with acid or boiling water; of being suspended from the ceiling for hours or days.

Investigators also studied images provided by a Syrian policeman, who anonymously turned over photographs of thousands of torture victims.

Cameras are generally banned from French criminal trials, but this one will be filmed for historical record.

In a separate investigation, French magistrates have also targeted President Assad himself but face questions about whether he benefits from presidential immunity.

Magistrates are investigating chemical weapons' attacks that killed more than 1,000 people and injured thousands of others in the suburbs of Damascus in 2013. They issued international arrest warrants for Assad, his brother Maher Assad, commander of the 4th Armored Division, and two Syrian army generals — Ghassan Abbas and Bassam al-Hassan — for alleged complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The French probe was opened in 2021 in response to a criminal complaint by attack survivors. The investigation is being conducted under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which argues that in some cases, crimes can be pursued outside the countries where they take place.

The Syrian government and its allies have denied responsibility for the attacks.

The French warrants, very rare for a serving world leader, were seen as a strong signal against Assad’s leadership at a time when some countries have welcomed him back into the diplomatic fold. Victims' lawyers hailed the warrants as “a crucial milestone in the battle against impunity.”

The Paris appeals court is weighing whether Assad has absolute immunity as head of state. French prosecutors asked it to rule on that question at a closed hearing May 15.

That procedure does not impact the warrants for Assad’s brother and the generals.

In March, Swiss prosecutors indicted Rifat Assad, the president’s uncle and a former Syrian vice president, for allegedly ordering murder and torture more than four decades ago to crush an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement, in the city of Hama, where thousands were killed.

A court in Stockholm put a former Syrian army general who lives in Sweden on trial in April for his alleged role in war crimes in 2012.

Courts in Germany found two former Syrian soldiers guilty in 2021 and 2022 of crimes against humanity. One was sentenced to life imprisonment, the other to 4 1/2 years for complicity. They had claimed refugee status in Germany before former detainees recognized them there. They were tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Surk reported from Nice, France. Associated Press writer Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, second left, arrives at the court room with Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish, center, Obeida Dabbagh,brother of Mazen Dabbagh, second right and his wife Hanane, Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at the courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick and his father Mazen. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, second left, arrives at the court room with Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish, center, Obeida Dabbagh,brother of Mazen Dabbagh, second right and his wife Hanane, Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at the courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick and his father Mazen. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte answers reporters Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at a courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick Dabbagh and his father Mazen. The four-day hearings, starting Tuesday, are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte answers reporters Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at a courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick Dabbagh and his father Mazen. The four-day hearings, starting Tuesday, are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, left, arrives at the court room with Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish, second left, Obeida Dabbagh,brother of Mazen Dabbagh, second right and his wife Hanane, Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at the courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick and his father Mazen. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, left, arrives at the court room with Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish, second left, Obeida Dabbagh,brother of Mazen Dabbagh, second right and his wife Hanane, Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at the courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick and his father Mazen. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte answers reporters Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at a courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick Dabbagh and his father Mazen. The four-day hearings, starting Tuesday, are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Lawyer Clemence Bectarte answers reporters Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at a courtroom in Paris. A Paris court will this week seek to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials — the most senior to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war — were responsible for the 2013 disappearance and deaths of Patrick Dabbagh and his father Mazen. The four-day hearings, starting Tuesday, are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's government has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to hold on to power during the conflict, now in its 14th year. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

FILE - In this photo released on Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria. In a landmark trial, a Paris court will this week seek Tuesday May 21, 2024 to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials were responsible for Patrick and Mazzen Dabbagh's disappearance and deaths. The hearings are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's regime has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to keep power in Syria's civil war. (SANA via AP, File)

FILE - In this photo released on Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria. In a landmark trial, a Paris court will this week seek Tuesday May 21, 2024 to determine whether Syrian intelligence officials were responsible for Patrick and Mazzen Dabbagh's disappearance and deaths. The hearings are expected to air chilling allegations that President Bashar Assad's regime has widely used torture and arbitrary detentions to keep power in Syria's civil war. (SANA via AP, File)

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Tropical Storm Alberto weakens over northeast Mexico after heavy rains killed 3

2024-06-21 00:39 Last Updated At:00:40

TAMPICO, Mexico (AP) — Tropical Storm Alberto, the season’s first named storm, weakened Thursday as it moved inland over northeast Mexico after bringing heavy rains to parts of the parched region and leaving at least three dead.

The storm was weakening rapidly over land and was downgraded to a tropical depression by the U.S. National Hurricane Center with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kmh). Coastal storm watches and warnings in Mexico were lifted as Alberto moved west at 18 mph (30 kmh).

But forecasters said heavy rain amounting to several inches was still expected inland in Mexico’s Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila states. South Texas was forecast to see diminishing rain Thursday.

Immediately after it moved ashore in Tampico, there was initial disappointment at the meager amount of rain that fell. Showers had been sporadic through the early morning with the sun even breaking through at times.

“We had hoped that it would come because water is so needed here, but at far as I can tell it went somewhere else,” said Tampico resident Marta Alicia Hernández.

The rain that Tampico had hoped for may still be coming from some of the large system's outer bands. There was heavy rain reported inland in the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon.

There, civil protection authorities reported three deaths linked to Alberto’s rains. They said one man died in the La Silla river in the city of Monterrey, the state capital, and that two minors died from electric shocks in the municipality of Allende. Local media reported that the minors were riding a bicycle in the rain.

Nuevo Leon Gov. Samuel García wrote on his account on social media platform X that metro and public transportation services would be suspended in Monterrey from Wednesday night until midday Thursday when Alberto has passed.

Alberto had spurred tropical storm warnings covering most of the western Gulf of Mexico’s coastline from Texas to Veracruz. The storm made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kmh).

Schools were closed across Tamaulipas state where Alberto came ashore and would be through Friday. Shelters were prepared across the state to receive residents trying to escape high water.

As much as 5 inches (13 centimeters) to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain was expected in some parts of northeast Mexico and southern Texas, with even higher isolated totals possible, according to the hurricane center. Some higher locations in Mexico could see as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain, which could result in mudslides and flash flooding, especially in the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon.

Mexican authorities had downplayed the risk posed by Alberto and instead pinned their hopes on its ability to ease the parched region's water needs.

“The (wind) speeds are not such as to consider it a risk,” said Tamaulipas state Secretary of Hydrological Resources Raúl Quiroga Álvarez during a news conference late Wednesday. Instead, he suggested people greet Alberto happily. “This is what we’ve been waiting for for eight years in all of Tamaulipas.”

Much of Mexico has been suffering under severe drought, with northern Mexico especially hard hit. Quiroga noted that the state’s reservoirs were low and Mexico owed the United States a massive water debt in their shared use of the Rio Grande.

“This is a win-win event for Tamaulipas,” he said.

Alberto was bringing rains and flooding to the coast of Texas as well.

The U.S. National Weather Service said the main hazard for southern coastal Texas is flooding from excess rain. On Wednesday the NWS said there is “a high probability” of flash flooding in southern coastal Texas. Tornadoes or waterspouts are possible.

Areas along the Texas coast were seeing some road flooding and dangerous rip currents Wednesday, and waterspouts were spotted offshore.

In the village of Surfside Beach, a Texas city on a barrier island, storm surge early Thursday left behind some damaged roads and lots of debris, but “very little damage” to the mostly elevated structures, Mayor Gregg Bisso said.

The surge was receding by late morning and “you can almost get around now,” he said. Bisso said the island has a population of about 800 full-time residents with as many as 10,000 vacationers in the summer.

Tampico resident Octavio González was visibly disappointed in the little rain from Alberto.

“Very little water fell,” he said. “We're on this south side of Tamaulipas with a lot of drought. And the truth is we have a lot of hope for the rain.”

Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

An oil slick drifts across the surface as the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto floods streets, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

An oil slick drifts across the surface as the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto floods streets, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Members of the Vise family walk through the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. They said they needed to get out of their house. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Members of the Vise family walk through the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. They said they needed to get out of their house. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Joseph Canzanella walks through the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto to get to work Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. "This ain't the first time I've had to do this, and it won't be the last," he said. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Joseph Canzanella walks through the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto to get to work Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. "This ain't the first time I've had to do this, and it won't be the last," he said. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto, floods the streets in Surfside Beach, Texas, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto, floods the streets in Surfside Beach, Texas, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Joseph Canzanella, left, greets members of the Vise family as he walks through the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto to get to work Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. "This ain't the first time I've had to do this, and it won't be the last," Canzanella said. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Joseph Canzanella, left, greets members of the Vise family as he walks through the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto to get to work Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. "This ain't the first time I've had to do this, and it won't be the last," Canzanella said. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto, floods the streets in Surfside Beach, Texas, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto, floods the streets in Surfside Beach, Texas, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Palapas sit deserted on a beach in Miramar, in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Tropical Storm Alberto formed on Wednesday in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, the first named storm of the hurricane season. (AP Photo/Fabian Melendez)

Palapas sit deserted on a beach in Miramar, in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Tropical Storm Alberto formed on Wednesday in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, the first named storm of the hurricane season. (AP Photo/Fabian Melendez)

Joseph Canzanella walks through the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto to get to work Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. "This ain't the first time I've had to do this, and it won't be the last," he said. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Joseph Canzanella walks through the storm surge from Tropical Storm Alberto to get to work Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. "This ain't the first time I've had to do this, and it won't be the last," he said. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Winds from Tropical Storm Alberto blow sea foam inland, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Winds from Tropical Storm Alberto blow sea foam inland, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

A car sits submerged in water as Tropical Storm Alberto approaches land Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

A car sits submerged in water as Tropical Storm Alberto approaches land Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Surfside Beach, Texas. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

A bird flies over a deserted pier in Miramar, in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Tropical Storm Alberto formed on Wednesday in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, the first named storm of the hurricane season. (AP Photo/Fabian Melendez)

A bird flies over a deserted pier in Miramar, in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Tropical Storm Alberto formed on Wednesday in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, the first named storm of the hurricane season. (AP Photo/Fabian Melendez)

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