A hundred yards inside the bombed-out western gate to Ajdabiya, Husain Ahmed Bukatwa stands around a smoldering fire smoking a cigarette and waiting for a tea kettle to boil.
His blue keffiyeh matches his beret, on which he's pinned a
revolutionary button bearing the image of the adopted opposition flag
and Omar Mukhtar, the hero of Libya’s anti-colonial resistance.
Before the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, Bukatwa studied computer science at Omar Mukhtar University in Derna, around 450 kilometres to the east.
Now he chats with his plain clothes rebel comrades next to a gun-mounted pick-up truck, hoisting a Belgian-made FN light automatic rifle that’s half his height.
Bukatwa is 18 years old. After a week of the most basic military training, he's now on the front line.
In recent days, the rebels' tactics and organisation have improved, and they have begun to resemble something like a trained militia, if not an army.
But months into the fight to overthrow Gaddafi's regime, their forces
remain a hodgepodge of civilians like Bukatwa, pressed into service and
made to rely on scavenged weapons and an aging fleet of captured
armoured vehicles they are barely able to repair.
"We know each other, we know who's bad and who's good, we know who wants to fight for freedom," Colonel Ahmed Bani, a rebel military spokesman, told Al Jazeera recently.