NZ student-turned-militant shot dead in Saudi Arabia

Saudi police have shot dead a man who studied on a scholarship in New Zealand as he attempted to carry out a suicide attack in Riyadh.

Taie bin Salem bin Yaslam al-Saya'ari quit school to join Islamic State in Syria, Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry said on Monday (NZ time).

He was wearing a suicide vest and carrying a machine gun when he was killed.

Immigration NZ area manager Darren Calder confirmed al-Saya'ari arrived in New Zealand in 2008, and held a series of student visas.

He left the country in November 2013.

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It's believed he made the bomb used in a July attack outside a mosque in Medina where Islam's holiest prophet, Muhammad, is buried.  Four Saudi security force members were killed in that attack.

Al-Saya'ari was accompanied by another militant, Talal bin Samran al-Sa'aeidi, who was previously arrested for fighting abroad. He'd been undergoing counselling, according to the Interior Ministry.

Prime Minister Bill English says the news illustrates "just how international the terrorist threat is" and says the Government is monitoring radicalisation in New Zealand.

"We'd be concerned if that was happening... there isn't much evidence of that happening at scale or in ways that are alarming, but we keep an eye on it," he said.

He wouldn't comment on border security or monitoring when al-Saya'ari was in New Zealand other than to say "things will almost certainly be tighter than they were back then".

"We accept that if you have people coming into New Zealand there's going to be some security risk," he said, adding that border and security processes had been renewed.

After leaving New Zealand al-Saya'ari later travelled to Turkey, Sudan and Yemen before returning to Saudi Arabia.

It's not yet clear where al-Saya'ari studied in New Zealand.