Commissioner of Police Mike Bush confirms Australian citizen Brenton Tarran has been charged with a terror act and faces 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder.

Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the dock during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019.
Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the dock during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019. (Reuters Archive)

New Zealand police have charged the self-confessed white supremacist who carried out shootings at two Christchurch mosques in March, with engaging in a terrorist act, they said on Tuesday.

In an attack broadcast live on Facebook, the lone attacker armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers, killing 51 worshippers and wounding dozens of people.

Tuesday's charge under terrorism suppression legislation was filed against Brenton Tarrant, police said.

"The charge will allege that a terrorist act was carried out in Christchurch on 15 March 2019," Commissioner of Police Mike Bush said in a statement.

An additional charge of murder and two more charges of attempted murder have also been filed against Tarrant, so that the suspected white supremacist faces a total of 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder.

Tarrant is next due to appear in court on June 14, after being remanded in custody in April and ordered to undergo psychiatric assessment to determine if he was fit to stand trial.

The mental health findings could determine whether he is required to enter a plea at that point.

Police told family members and attack survivors of the new charges at a private meeting attended by more than 200 people.

During the attacks, 42 people were killed at the Al Noor mosque, seven were killed at the Linwood mosque and two died later in hospitals.

Source: Reuters