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.

In a press release, the office of the Minister for Defence of Australia said that fifteen Somali pirates surrendered to the Australians and a variety of weapons were seized and disposed of in the operation.

The ministry said the Anzac frigate HMAS Stuart intercepted the Yemeni-flagged dhow almost three weeks after it was seized by pirates in the area.

“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,” Chief of defence joint operations Lieutenant General Mark Evans said in a statement.

The Yemeni vessel, the Al Shahar 75, was attacked and seized by pirates about 20 days ago.

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 Yemeni vessel was safely escorted from the area by HMAS Stuart.

Australian warships undertake six-month deployments to the Middle East, participating in task forces conducting counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations.