Christchurch mosque attacker a right-wing extremist with Australian citizenship: PM Scott Morrison

New Zealand was put on high alert following the attack. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Christchurch, New Zealand Mar 15, 2019, 11.45 AM (IST)

The gunman who opened fire in a New Zealand mosque was a right-wing extremist with Australian citizenship, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

He declined to provide further details, saying the investigation was being led by New Zealand authorities.

An attack on two crowded mosques during Friday prayers left multiple people dead, police said, on what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as "one of New Zealand's darkest days".

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Police said four people - three men and a woman - had been taken into custody, and that they had found and neutralised a number of IEDs (improved explosive devices).

PM Ardern said she was unable to confirm the number of fatalities, with events still unfolding.

"It is clear that this is one of New Zealand's darkest days," she told reporters. "Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence."

The Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch was filled with worshippers when the attack happened, as was the second mosque in suburban Linwood. Police said they had put the entire city on lockdown including schools, and told residents to stay off the streets.

The Bangladesh cricket team - which had been in Christchurch for a Test match against New Zealand that was later cancelled.

A spokesman said the attack happened as some of the players had got off a team bus and were about to enter the mosque.