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Militants linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization are preventing Syrian civilians and rebel fighters from leaving eastern Aleppo, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak said in a discussion at Johns Hopkins University.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A cessation of hostilities announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed in part because the United States did not separate the rebels from the terrorists in Aleppo.

“The al-Qaeda that is acting there in this territory…is keeping order [with] what we call in Russia an ‘iron first’,” Kislyak stated on Tuesday. “Last week, 26 people who wanted to leave were shot by al-Qaeda.”

Kislyak explained that other anti-government fighters in eastern Aleppo sometimes act together with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front. Both the United States and Russia recognize the group as an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization.

The United States promised to disentangle other Syrian opposition groups from the terrorists as far back as March, but never delivered on their pledge, Kislyak noted.

Furthermore, Kislyak said he thought Washington would understand the importance of fighting al-Qaeda because of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.