A published report says 2007 could be the most lethal year yet for civilian employees of private companies operating in Iraq's war zones.
Saturday's New York Times says figures from the U.S. Labor Department show at least 146 contract workers were killed in Iraq during the first three months of this year. It is the highest number of civilian casualties for any similar period since the U.S.-led war began in March 2003.
A spokesman for an insurance company says more than 3,400 other contractors have filed claims for wounds or injuries suffered in Iraq, which is also a quarterly record.
The newspaper says the rising number of civilian deaths is occurring as more U.S. forces are deployed to Baghdad in an attempt to quell sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital. Contract workers say their vehicles are often not as well protected as military vehicles.
More than 900 contractors have been killed since the start of the war, while more than 12,000 have been wounded in battle or injured on the job. About 126,000 civilians are working for nearly 300 international companies operating in Iraq. They are generally employed as armed guards, military trainers, translators and maintenance workers.