Somali pirates
Somali pirates are rife in the lawless stretch of the Horn of Africa

A NATO task force has identified and "neutralised" two Somali pirate ships off the coasts of Oman and Somalia, according to a statement on the NATO website.

The two ships were originally of Indian and Iranian nationality. They were pirated and used as mother ships by Somali pirates for their attacks on merchant shipping the Arab Sea.

The NATO unit intercepted the first ship Saturday off the south western coast of Oman. The second one was close to the Somali coast when it was identified as a potential pirate ship by the Danish warship Absalon. The statement says no people were injured by the use of warning shots or during the boarding operation.

"NATO's Counter Piracy Task Force has demonstrated its flexibility, reach, resolve and capability to work with other counter piracy agencies to provide security on the sea lanes of this large ocean," said Sinan Azmi Tosun. "Within the last two days NATO has disrupted two piracy-related dhows with a total of 34 suspected Somali pirates now unable to engage in unlawful acts on the high seas. This is a severe loss of capability for the pirate organisers and I congratulate my units on a job well done."

NATO has contributed to the international counter piracy effort off the Horn of Africa since December 2008.The mission has expanded from escorting UN and World Food Programme Shipping under Operation Allied Provider and protecting merchant traffic in the Gulf of Aden under Operation Allied Protector. In addition to these activities and as part of the latest mission, Operation Ocean Shield, NATO is working with other international bodies to help develop capacity of countries in the region to tackle piracy on their own.