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Buffalo refugees remember young boy killed by stray bullet

Najmaldeen "Naj" Elwaseem looked down at the plaque memorializing his younger brother before talking about the more than two dozen refugee communities that came together Sunday to remember him.

"It means everything to me," he said, his eyes moist with emotion. "It means someone is always out there thinking of him."

On a warm Sunday afternoon, with the 10th annual World Refugee Day as a backdrop, Buffalo took time to remember Badraldeen Mohamad Elwaseem, the 12-year-old refugee from Yemen killed in early April.

Elwaseem, who went by Badr, was shot by a stray bullet while watching television in his family's apartment across from Towne Gardens Plaza on William Street.

With the plaque and a tree that will be planted in Badr's memory, Refugee Day organizers said they wanted his family to know that every refugee community is thinking of them.

"When one community is hurting, every community hurts," said Eskinder Tefera, an organizer and a refugee from Ethiopia. "They feel like that kid is their kid."

To a person, organizers said it was important for refugees who fled violence in coming to Buffalo to remember a young refugee's violent death here.

"Our childhoods are all painful, and we have all had a lot of drama in our lives," said Ali Kadhum, founder of World Refugee Day in Buffalo and a refugee from Iraq. "We all believe safety is number one."

Ali Kadhum, left, a World Refugee Day organizer, with Naj Elwaseem with a plaque for his brother, Badr. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

On a day when people from Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal and dozens of other countries came together to celebrate their dance, dress, food and every other aspect of their cultures, there were also solemn moments.

At one point, the crowd at LaSalle Park paused for a moment of silence in memory of Badr.

Badraldeen Mohamad Elwaseem. (Contributed photo)

"It shows them that the community cares," Musa Alamari, an Elwaseem family friend, said of the plaque and tree. "It shows them the love and support of the people here."

For Badr's older brother, it meant his sibling will not be forgotten.

"It's been very tough," he said, referring to his family. "Each day is a challenge. Each day is a struggle."

As part of its search for Badr's killer, the FBI and Crime Stoppers Buffalo is offering a $32,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Earlier this month, Buffalo detectives said they were making progress in the investigation but declined to comment on specifics.

At one point, investigators believed Badr may have been the innocent victim of a violent gang feud in the neighborhood around Towne Gardens shopping center.

One of those gangs is currently the focus of a federal grand jury indictment charging members with drug dealing and murder.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Buffalo Police Department via its anonymous TIP-CALL line at 847-2255 or its Facebook page. People can also call the FBI's Buffalo office at 856-7800 or Crime Stoppers Buffalo at 867-6161 or visit crimestoppersbuffalo.com.

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