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Several dead in Christchurch mosque shooting

Multiple people have been killed after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

However, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is too soon to say how many people have been slain.

"I would describe it as an unprecedented act of violence, an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand, " she said of the attacks on at least one mosque in in the city.

Police have taken one person into custody after the gunman shot at worshippers as they gathered for Friday prayers.

"We are dealing with a very serious and tragic series of events in the Christchurch-Canterbury area," police chief Mike Bush said.

"They involve an active shooter. They involve multiple fatalities.

"We have one person in custody, but we are unsure if there are other people.

"The multiple fatalities are, as far as we know, at two locations. A mosque at Deans Ave and another mosque at Linwood Ave, Christchurch."

Armed police are deployed in the city at the Masjid Al Noor mosque where the shooting happened in Hagley Park at 1.40pm (NZT) on Friday and schools across the city have been locked down.

A witness with blood splatters across his shirt told AAP the shooter changed magazines seven times after opening fire as the crowd gathered to pray ran for the door.

"He went to all the different [rooms] and he shot everyone," he said, saying he had laid under a bench to pretend he was dead.

Other witnesses described seeing several people covered in blood.

Several hundred people were inside and witnesses reported seeing at least four people on the ground and "blood everywhere", according to Radio New Zealand.

One man said the scene at the mosque was chaotic with as many as 40 people injured.

"I heard a big sound of the gun. And a second one, I ran. Lots of people were sitting on the floor. I ran behind the mosque," he told TVNZ.

"The floor. There's lots of blood on the floor, you can see when you go in."

The man, who did not give his name, said he saw four people including a woman on the floor but did not see the shooter.

Christchurch schools, the hospital and the city's university are on lockdown and residents have been told to remain indoors and report suspicious behaviour.

The Bangladesh cricket team, in Christchurch to play New Zealand on Saturday were in the vicinity, and had been left shaken but uninjured, their coach told media.

AAP

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