"The recent expansion of the ISIL sphere of influence across West and North Africa, the Middle East and South and South-East Asia demonstrates the speed and scale at which the gravity of the threat has evolved in just 18 months," Ban said in a report to the UN Security Council.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, ISIL continues to develop a network of contacts and sympathisers who carry out attacks in its name, Ban said in his report which was submitted to the Security Council by Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary- General for Political Affairs during a debate on the threat posed by ISIL — also known as Daesh — to international peace and security.

The complexity of recent attacks and the level of planning, coordination and sophistication involved raise concerns about its future evolution, said the Secretary General.

In his report, Ban said ISIL has also benefited from the arrival of a steady stream of foreign terrorist fighters, who continue to leave their communities to replenish its ranks.

The return of these fighters from the battlefields of Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic and other conflict zones is a further major concern, as returnees can extend the presence of ISIL to their States of origin and use their skills and combat experience to recruit additional sympathisers, establish terrorist networks and commit terrorist acts, the Secretary General said.

The report further analyses ISIL's finances, highlighting the group's capacity to mobilise vast resources rapidly and effectively.

Its main sources of financing included the exploitation of oil and other natural resources, 'taxing', confiscation and the looting of archaeological sites, as well as external donations and use of the Internet and social media to raise funds.

The United Nations, for its part, should step up capacity-building assistance in that context, he said, asking Member States to strengthen their tools for disrupting ISIL's capacity to plan and facilitate attacks.

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