The two men were part of a network protecting bin Laden in Pakistan, before he was killed by US forces in May 2011, Italy’s state police said in a statement.
The duo were among a number of alleged members of an international terrorist organization – affiliated to Al-Qaeda – arrested on Friday morning.
The “vast anti-terrorism operation” was carried out across seven Italian provinces, while Sardinia was pinpointed as the operational base of the group.
Investigators revealed that the criminal organization “had arms in abundance at its disposal and numerous followers who were prepared to carry out acts of terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, before re-entering Italy.”
Members of the group are responsible for “numerous and bloodthirsty acts of terrorism and sabotage in Pakistan”, including a bomb attack in Peshawar in 2009. Over 100 people were killed in the attack at the Meena Bazar market.
Additionally, they may have plotted to attack the Vatican in 2010, AFP reported quoting Prosecutor Mauro Mura in Cagliari, the Sardinian capital.
The network also helped Pakistanis and Afghans enter Italy illegally, with some of the migrants moving on to northern European countries.
Some of the immigrants were given fake job contracts, thanks to the help of obliging businessmen. Others were handed fake documents which marked them out as victims or ethnic or religious persecution.
Police said: “The organization supplied logistical support and finance to undocumented migrants, guaranteeing them: defence regarding immigration office experts, instructions on the statements to make to obtain political asylum, equipping them with phones and sim cards, personal contacts.”
The group’s operations were financed with the support of the Tabligh Eddawa religious movement, between Brescia and Bergamo, which allegedly spurred on the collection of funds within the Pakistani-Afghan community in Italy.
Money was then sent to Pakistan through members of the criminal organization, who got around controls on exporting currently. In one case €55,268 was sent on a flight to Islamabad from Rome’s Fiumicino airport, without being declared.
More often, however, they operated a currency transfer system through trusted Islamic communities in Europe.
The criminal group preached an armed fight against western countries and planned an insurrection against the government in Pakistan. Its violent campaign in the country was a strategy to force the government to give up its fight against militants, Italian police said.