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SEATTLE - The U.S. soldier accused of carrying out one of the worst atrocities of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is due to appear in a military courtroom Monday, where prosecutors will for the first time lay out their case.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is accused in the deaths of 16 people, including children, during a predawn raid on two villages in the Taliban's heartland.

Officials allege that Bales slipped away from a remote outpost in southern Afghanistan early on March 11 with an M-4 rifle outfitted with a grenade launcher to attack two villages.

Monday marks the start of a preliminary hearing, called an Article 32 hearing, before an investigative officer charged with recommending whether Bales' case should proceed to a court-martial.

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