SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian police stepped up patrols around mosques in the state of New South Wales after an Australian extremist killed multiple Muslim worshippers at two New Zealand mosques during Friday (March 15) prayers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed media reports that the gunman who mowed down 40 worshippers in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch was an Australian-born citizen.
Morrison said the gunman was a right-wing "terrorist" with Australian citizenship.
"We stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist," Morrison told a press conference.
He said Australian authorities were investigating any links between the country and the attack, but declined to provide further details about the gunman.
Australian media reported the gunman came from a town in New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, and state police later said they were increasing patrols around mosques in the state in light of the Christchurch attacks.
Additional police will also be deployed to religious building and services over the weekend, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said, according to the News.com.au website.
The police described the move as a precaution as "there is no ongoing or specific threat to any mosque or place of worship" in the state.
An emotional Morrison offered his sympathies to Kiwis, and announced that flags in Australia would be flown at half-mast in memory of the victims.
"We are not just allies, we are not just partners, we are family," he said. "It is such a sad and devastating reminder of the evil that can be ever present about us," Morrison said of the attacks.