As many as a dozen strong tornadoes tore through Dallas and Fort Worth Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

A constable searches a home after a tornado swept through the area Tuesday, in Forney, Texas. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

“I guess ‘shock’ is probably a good word,” Marcus Knight, mayor of the Dallas suburb of Lancaster, told the Associated Press. Physical therapist Patti Gilroy told the AP she saw one of her co-workers nearly “sucked out” of the window.

More of your morning links below:

French academic dies in New York

A prominent scholar was found naked and dead in a New York hotel room in suspicious circumstances, according to investigators. Richard Descoings, 53, was the director of one of France’s top colleges. Investigators are looking into whether an unknown person had been with Descoings in the room before his death, and why several items were thrown out the window. (Reuters, AP)

French paper Le Monde called Descoings: “Champion of equal opportunities, a revolutionary in a frozen world of education. A stirrer of ideas, in an academic world filled with taboos. A senior official reformer who, by itself, has probably had more influence than many ministers of education.” (Le Monde)

Syria ‘pullout’

Syrian government says it has started to withdraw troops, in order to comply with an international plan for cease-fire. But on Tuesday evening, loud explosions could still be heard in the central Syrian city of Homs, and clashes were reported elsewhere. (AP)

Mali coup

More than 200,000 people have fled their homes following a military coup in Mali, according to the United Nations. The international organization warns that major food shortages could be coming, and says “mayhem in these towns and cities is increasing.” (AP)

Al-Qaeda is using the chaos in Mali to expand, France says. A rebellion in the northern part of the country, now unchecked by a government in crisis, may be helping the terrorist group. (Reuters)