Afghanistan - Police shot dead an Afghan senator and his son in northern Baghlan province after their car ran a checkpoint in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the provincial governor and police chief said.

Shirin Agha, a member of parliament's upper house, was passing through an area where Afghan forces were chasing Taliban fighters, at around 2 a.m., when he was killed, Baghlan governor Akbar Barakzai told Reuters.

The police warned him to stop, but his driver either didn't see or ignored it, Barakzai said. The police fired at them, the bodyguard fired back. In the police firing the senator and his son were killed.

Baghlan police chief Mohamed Kabir Andarabi said the senator's son was also his driver. The governor had mentioned a different driver and it was not immediately possible to clarify the matter. Andarabi added that three bodyguards who were with the men had been arrested and were being questioned about why they were travelling so late at night and why they fired on the police.

The shooting happened near the provincial capital of Pol-i-Khomri, an area which, like most of northern Afghanistan, was largely peaceful after the late 2001 fall of the Taliban but has seen a rise in insurgent activity in recent years.

Violence in Afghanistan is at the highest levels in eight years, with several major attacks in the well patrolled capital Kabul alone. U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to ramp up troop numbers next year to try and turn the tide against the insurgents.

In southern Helmand province on Wednesday, three civilians were killed and four wounded when an explosive device detonated in a bazaar in Nad Ali district, said Daoud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor.

The apparent target was soldiers passing by at the time. One was reported wounded, Ahmadi said.

(Reporting by Mohamed Hamed in KUNDUZ and Ismail Sameem in KANDAHAR, Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison)