File photo: Robert Bales.

Los Angeles -

A US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in 2012 will face a court-martial in September, military authorities said on Thursday.

Sergeant Robert Bales could face the death penalty if found guilty at the military trial, a spokesman for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) said, giving a “tentative” start date of September 3.

Bales faces 16 counts of murder, six of attempted murder, seven of assault, two of using drugs and one of drinking alcohol. Seventeen of the 22 victims were women or children and almost all were shot in the head.

The 39-year-old allegedly left his base in the Panjwayi district of southern Kandahar province on the night of March 11, 2012, to commit the killings, which included nine children. Bales allegedly set several of their bodies on fire.

The court martial is expected to take place at JBLM, south of Seattle in the northwestern US state of Washington. The base spokesman, Gary Dangerfield, gave no details other than the expected date. - Sapa-AFP