Russia says 'destroyed' Syria rebels in area where jet brought down

Moscow (AFP) - Russia on Thursday said its forces had wiped out Syrian rebel groups operating in the area where one of its jets was brought down, unleashing a huge bombardment after rescuing a pilot.

"As soon as our pilot was safe, Russian bombers and artillery of the Syrian government forces carried out massive strikes in the indicated area for an extended period," military official Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies.

"The terrorists operating in that area and other mysterious groups were destroyed," he said.

Konashenkov added that the Russian strikes helped Syrian ground forces take control of the mountainous area in the north of the Latakia province.

Turkey on Tuesday shot down a Russian jet in northern Syria alleging that it had crossed over into its air space and sparking a war of words with Moscow.

One pilot that parachuted out was later rescued by Russian and Syrian special forces, while a second pilot from the jet and a soldier sent to rescue him were killed by rebels on the ground.

The defence ministry said Thursday that it had deployed its advanced S-400 air defence system at the Russian airbase in Syria to ensure the security of its warplanes, which have been bombing the war-torn country since September 30.

Konashenkov said that over the past three days its jets carried out 134 combat sorties over the war-torn country and struck 449 targets in the Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Raqa and Deir Ezzor provinces.