160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! As troops patrol more aggressively in and around the capital, both soldiers and the contractors who support them, often at small outposts, are at greater peril. The contractor deaths earlier this year, for example, came closer to the number of American military deaths during the same period – 244 – than during any other quarter since the war began, according to official figures. “The insurgents are going after the softest targets, and the contractors are softer targets than the military,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense for manpower during the Reagan administration. “The U.S. is being more aggressive over there, and these contractor deaths go right along with it.” Truck drivers and translators account for a significant share of the casualties, but the recent death toll includes others who make up what amounts to a private army. Among them were four American security guards who died in a helicopter crash in January, 28 Turkish construction workers whose plane crashed north of Baghdad the same month, a Massachusetts man who was blown up as he dismantled munitions for an American company in March, and a Georgia woman killed in a missile attack in March while working as a coordinator for KBR, the contracting company. WASHINGTON – Casualties among private contractors in Iraq have soared to record levels this year, setting a pace that seems certain to turn 2007 into the bloodiest year yet for the civilians who work alongside the American military in the war zone, according to new government numbers. At least 146 contract workers were killed in Iraq in the first three months of the year, by far the highest number for any quarter since the war began in March 2003, according to the Labor Department, which processes death and injury claims for those working as U.S. government contractors in Iraq. That brings the total number of contractors killed in Iraq to at least 917, along with more than 12,000 wounded in battle or injured on the job, according to government figures and dozens of interviews. The numbers, which have not been previously reported, reveal the extent to which contractors – Americans, Iraqis, and workers from more than three dozen other countries – are largely hidden casualties of the war, and now are facing increased risks alongside American soldiers and Marines as President George W. Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Baghdad takes hold.