Police in Somalia said Wednesday they were questioning a man accused of beheading four of his children more than three years after divorcing their mother.

Omar Shire Hassan was apprehended late Tuesday by the police in the central Somalia town of Beledweyne, situated about 300 kilometres (190 miles) north of the capital, a few hours after allegedly murdering the children who were between three and eight years old.

"The dead bodies of the four children were found near a village and have been buried. The man handed himself in and is in custody now. I think he is not mentally fit but we are questioning him," regional police commissioner Colonel Isak Ali Abdulle said.

He said police understood the man had recently returned to Somalia from Canada, but said the motive for the crime was unclear.

Relatives of the accused told AFP that he has been living with his children for the past few weeks in Beledweyne, while the mother was in Mogadishu.

"We did not know of any problems he was having with his children. I think something went wrong with his state of mind," said relative Mohamed Isa.

"He took the children from Beledweyne to a nearby village to study the Koran but he has beheaded the four of them before handing himself in," Isa added.

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  • Survivors are helped to escape from a window at Mogadishu’s court complex in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sunday, April 14, 2013. Militants launched a serious and sustained assault on Mogadishu's main court complex Sunday, detonating at least two blasts, taking an unknown number of hostages and exchanging extended volleys of gunfire with government security forces, witnesses said.(AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

  • A Somali soldier passes near a destroyed home next to Mogadishu’s court complex in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sunday, April 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

  • Somali soldiers look at the wreckage of the car that detonated the bomb near the entrance of Mogadishu’s court complex, Mogadishu, Somalia, Sunday, April,14, 2013. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

  • A Somali soldier walks near a destroyed car near the entrance of Mogadishu’s court complex, Mogadishu, Somalia, Sunday, April 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)