War Hero Marinko Kardum – The First Victim in the Defense of Šibenik

On 17 September 1991, Marinko Kardum was the first Croatian soldier killed in the defense of Šibenik.

Marinko Kardum

Kardum was born on August 30, 1967 in Zagreb where he spent his early childhood. While in elementary school, Kardum’s family moved to Vodice and he later attended high school in Šibenik. He was a tradesman and driving instructor by profession and is remembered as a cheerful, sociable and eternally optimistic young man. He loved sports such as football, surfing, karate, and especially loved motocross and car racing.

Marinko with his friends

In November 1990 he volunteered for the Ministry of the Interior in Zagreb and made himself available to the new Croatian government. He soon became a member of the Rakitje Special Task Force, popularly known as the “Tigers” and received his baptism by fire with the unit in Pakrac in March 1991. Shortly thereafter, Kardum went to Šibenik where he joined the newly established Special Police Unit of the Šibenik Police Department, who would become to be known as the “Hawks”.

Their first assignment was the village of Kijevo followed by the Skradin hinterland. In September 1991, the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) was on the outskirts of Šibenik itself aiming to occupy the Šibenik Bridge and control the entrance to the city. As the commander of the 1st Platoon in the unit, Marinko Kardum led attacks on YPA tanks from the Vodice side of the bridge. Before the general attack on Šibenik began in the early morning hours of 17 September, Kardum and his comrades tried to surprise the enemy. When dawn broke, the enemy clearly saw the positions of the Croatian forces and opened up with tank fire.

Marinko tried to use the noise of the tanks to change to a better position but was hit in the leg by machine gun fire when he ran across the road. According to eyewitnesses, one of the soldiers came out of the tank, an officer, approached Marinko, aimed his scorpion submachine gun at him and fired two bursts. He killed him in cold blood.

Ivica Ajduković Jastreb, commander of the Šibenik special police in the Homeland War

Kardum’s body was not recovered that day. His family hoped that he was alive but the Yugoslav People’s Army returned his decapitated body a few weeks later. Kardum was buried on 12 October 1991 in the cemetery in Vodice.

YPA officer Ivica Jelušić was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison for the murder of Marinko Kardum in 1993. At Jelušić’s request, he was arrested years later, re-tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Due to procedural errors during the trial, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia ordered a third trial in which the accused Jelušić was acquitted. As he was deemed to have served 4 years, 8 months and 26 days of unjustified detention, Jelušić received 863,000 HRK in compensation from the Republic of Croatia.

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