Soldiers are patrolling the streets of Brussels as Belgium hunts a suspected Islamist militant who has been on the run since the attacks in Paris.The Belgian capital's streets are eerily quiet when they should be bustling with shoppers in the run-up to Christmas.

Authorities are still warning of possible imminent attacks like those in the French capital, in which 130 people were killed. They are searching for Brussels barkeeper Salah Abdeslam, who returned to the city from Paris hours after the attacks on 13 November.

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A Belgian soldier stands guard on the Grand PlaceYves Herman/Reuters
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An armed Belgian soldier wearing camouflage gear patrols in BrusselsYves Herman/Reuters
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A Belgian soldier stands guard outside a café near the Grand PlaceYves Herman/Reuters
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Soldiers speak to a man in the Belgian capitalEmmanuel Dunand/AFP

The metro, museums, most cinemas and many shops will stay shut in the usually bustling EU capital. Many staff have opted to work from home. There is also no school or university for almost 300,000 students. On the Grand Place, a historic central square that usually draws crowds of tourists, an armoured military vehicle was parked under an illuminated Christmas tree.

Nato said its headquarters in the city are open, but some of its 1,000 staff have been asked to work from home and external visits had been cancelled. EU institutions, which employ some 21,000 people in the city, are also open with the soldiers patrolling outside.

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An armed soldier patrols through an empty shopping galleryEmmanuel Dunand/AFP
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A Belgian soldier stands guard at the entrance of Brussels AirportFrancois Lenoir/Reuters
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Belgian soldiers patrol outside the European Commission headquartersYves Herman/Reuters
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Soldiers and police patrol under Christmas lights in BrusselsYves Herman/Reuters
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Belgian soldiers patrol Brussels' Grand Place at nightYves Herman/Reuters
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Belgian soldiers patrol a shopping arcade in BrusselsYoussef Boudlal/Reuters
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Belgian police officers arrest a man during a continued high level security situation in BrusselsYoussef Boudlal/Reuters
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A Belgian police officer holds a weapon while searching an area of BrusselsYoussef Boudlal/Reuters
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Belgian soldiers patrol in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of BrusselsYoussef Boudlal/Reuters
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Soldiers patrol at the entrance of the Council of Ministers in BrusselsJohn Thys/AFP
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Soldiers and police patrol past closed shops in the Belgian capitalEmmanuel Dunand/AFP
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Security personnel patrol outside a closed subway stationEmmanuel Dunand/AFP
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A cyclist passes soldiers standing guard outside the Brussels Central Train StationEmmanuel Dunand/AFP
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Heavily armed soldiers stand guard in front of the central train station in BrusselsEmmanuel Dunand/AFP
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Police check someone's bag on a street in BrusselsAFP
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An armed soldier stands guard next to a tourist taking a photo of the Manneken Pis statueEmmanuel Dunand/AFP
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A Belgian police officer gestures behind a cordon around a café near the Grand PlaceEmmanuel Dunand/AFP
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Tourists pose for a picture in front of an armoured vehicle on the Grand PlaceJohn Thys/AFP

Some locals are not convinced the government's moves are anything more than a PR move. "They have a lot of attention on them now so they have to prove they're doing something, but I don't know how much difference this will make," said Maxime Legena, an IT technician. "We don't really know how big this threat is because the government hasn't said very much." But he did appreciate one unintended side-effect of the attempts to shutter the city: "My drive to work was much faster today because there's nobody on the streets."

Jacqueline Vander-Poelen, who lives near the city's Grand Place, said the noise of police operations and reporters scurrying to cover them made for an annoying weekend. "What's making me scared is the alarmist journalists saying there's going to be another attack," she said. While she couldn't remember any other instance where the city shut down so completely, she said residents would likely accept whatever measures were necessary to defeat extremists.

Some Belgians have developed their own style of acceptance. When authorities asked people to stop commenting on ongoing police raids, social media users responded by flooding Twitter with pictures of cats, including some snaps of kittens holding up their paws like captured suspects.

Prime Minister Charles Michel said the city of 1.2 million will remain on Belgium's fourth and highest level of security threat, meaning the threat of an attack is "serious and imminent". Interior Minister Jan Jambon said Belgium's capital is still operating. "Apart from the closed metro and schools, life goes on in Brussels, the public sector is open for business today, many companies are open," Jambon said. The city's buses are running normally and many shops in the suburbs are open.

Organisers of the Davis Cup tennis final between Belgium and Britain in Ghent, 55km (35 miles) to the west of Brussels, said it will go ahead this weekend.