WASHINGTON - Johan Verbeke, Belgium's ambassador to the United States, told reporters that prior to Tuesday’s attack in Brussels, his country had been "working like hell" after receiving information of a possible upcoming terrorist strike.
Verbeke spoke to the media outside of the Belgium Embassy in Washington, D.C. where the flags were lowered to half-staff following attacks at a Brussels airport and metro station that left more than 30 dead and possibly hundreds injured.
He said that over the last several days, Belgium’s security teams uncovered weapons and identified individuals connected to terrorist networks - two elements that were unsettling and that pointed to a planned attack.
He said heightened security forces were already in place in Brussels when Tuesday's attacks happened and that awareness of a possible attack was at its highest level.
"Nobody is immune from these kinds of dreadful attacks," he said. "This is very deep because it is not just the people who are the victims of these attacks."
Verbeke said he spoke with his son who was in Brussels not far from the scene of the subway attack earlier Tuesday morning. His son, who was not injured, told him that most residents are staying home and reflecting on the situation.
"The message we have, not just to the people of Belgium, but to the people of France, to the people of Europe, to the people of the world in general, is that this is a real threat. All of us, the government, the citizens, have to cooperate with the security services - exchange information - make sure that these things cannot happen," Verbeke said. "It’s a collective responsibility of all of us."
"We are a resilient people - we are a resilient capital - we will have to overcome it. But it will take some days of reflection and indeed sad feelings for the days and the hours to come," he said.
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