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US soldier faces hearing in Afghanistan massacre; case includes blimp video, Afghan witnesses

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is appearing in a military courtroom in Washington state for the first time on charges that he slaughtered 16 Afghan villagers during a predawn rampage last March.

Bales is scheduled to face a preliminary hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle that could last as long as two weeks. Military prosecutors are expected to show video from a surveillance blimp that depicts Bales returning to his remote outpost in Kandahar Province after the killings. Part of the hearing will be held at night to allow video testimony from witnesses in Afghanistan.

The hearing will help determine whether the 39-year-old father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., faces a court martial. He could get the death penalty.

The massacre left 16 dead — nine children.

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