An Australian navy frigate operating off the Horn of Africa has rescued three crew members of a hijacked Yemeni ship who were held hostage by Somali pirates for almost three weeks.
Fifteen Somali pirates surrendered to the Australians and a variety of weapons were seized and disposed of in the operation.
Defence said the Anzac frigate HMAS Stuart intercepted the Yemeni-flagged dhow almost three weeks after it was seized by pirates in the area.
The rescue occurred on Monday morning after HMAS Stuart had been monitoring suspected pirate activity in the area for several hours.
Chief of defence joint operations Lieutenant General Mark Evans said he was pleased with the way the crew handled a difficult and dangerous mission.
"No shots were fired by either HMAS Stuart or the pirates during the interdiction and no threats were made by the pirates to harm the Yemeni crew once they saw the boarding party rapidly secure the dhow," he said in a statement.
"Stuart's boarding party did extremely well in maintaining the safety of the dhow's crew and ensuring a potentially challenging situation did not escalate."
The Yemeni vessel, the Al Shahar 75, was attacked and seized by pirates about 20 days ago.
In the rescue operation, 15 Somali pirates surrendered to HMAS Stuart's boarding party as they approached.
During a search of the vessel, members of the boarding party located 11 AK-47 assault rifles with 16 magazines, a large quantity of small arms ammunition and a rocket propelled grenade launcher with grenade.
The weapons were catalogued and then dumped overboard.
Under standard procedures, the now disarmed pirates were put back in their skiff and provided with sufficient water, food, fuel and communication equipment to get back to the Somali coast.
Al Shahar 75 was then escorted from the area.
Australian warships undertake six-month deployments to the Middle East, participating in task forces conducting counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations.