Leaving Lancashire for Libyan front line

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Media captionSadiq Belhaj says he is not scared to die for his country

With his pudding-bowl haircut, glasses and shy demeanour, maths student Sadiq Belhaj seems at first glance an unlikely rebel fighter.

He is 24 and has been studying at the University of Lancaster, England, on a scholarship originally arranged by one of Colonel Gaddafi's sons.

But last week Sadiq arrived back home in Misrata - clutching a new pair of binoculars and a big suitcase - determined to join the embattled defenders of this besieged city.

"When I was in England I couldn't do much for this revolution so I decided to go and hold a gun for the first time in my life. I don't know how to use it but I hope my brothers will teach me," he said.

Last year Sadiq got a distinction in his exams but this year he is not sure if he even passed.

"I couldn't concentrate on my studies," he said.

"I went into lectures but holding a laptop under the table and looking at the news."

Sadiq's father hugged him on the quayside in Misrata's port - an area that is still being bombarded by Colonel Gaddafi's forces to the south-east.

The family has been devastated by the disappearance of 16 close relatives - all male - who they say were taken off the streets here by Col Gaddafi's troops in the early days of the conflict.

"I don't want to kill anyone, actually... but we had to fight," said Sadiq.

Rocket launcher

I have spent some time with him over the past few days, and his gentle temperament belies an earnest, mature, and determined character.

Within hours of arriving, he was driving south towards the front lines with another friend, Salim, who has also been studying in the UK.

Like many volunteers, Sadiq doesn't have a gun. But Salim is in charge of a pick-up truck with a small rocket launcher welded to the back. They share a tent beside a sand dune, surrounded by other fighters, and by the orchards and farms that stretch along the coastline here.

Salim gave Sadiq a five-minute lesson on how to fire and maintain a Kalashnikov rifle.

Then they turned to the rocket launcher.

"We are trying to set the rockets, measure the angles and so on," said Sadiq, who hopes that his maths skills will at least serve some military purpose when it comes to targeting.

Other pick-ups tore around the dunes. Somewhere in the clouds, a Nato jet rumbled past.

"I'm not scared - not scared at all," he said. "If I die for this country, for freedom, for defending my family and relatives, this is an honour for me.

"We have two choices - either to live in peace and freedom, or we die. If they take this city again, they will kill everyone."