New IRA boss Thomas Mellon demanded three nights of hijackings in Derry city in response to the arrest of a teenager who is close to one of his lieutenants.
The violence, sparked by police taking a 14-year-old autistic boy into custody, has been widely condemned.
The teen, who was de-arrested a short time later, is close to prominent dissidents including Kieran McCool (52), who is understood to be the New IRA's second-in-command in Derry.
Furious at his treatment, Mellon ordered youngsters onto the streets to hijack and burn cars and vans.
The 44-year-old crime boss, who is on a 10-year MI5 terror watchlist, also hoped the trouble would overshadow the funeral of John Hume.
TV crews from around the world were in the city to film the Nobel Peace Prize winner's send-off, with Mellon banking on them also reporting the New IRA violence.
But he was left disappointed when the hijackings barely made a whimper on international news bulletins.
Republicans in the north west say what could have been a major publicity coup turned into yet another fail.
"The hijackings have caused a lot of anger towards the New IRA. Most of the vans taken and set on fire belonged to local hard-working men," a source told Sunday Life.
"Their livelihoods have been ruined and what for? The likes of Tommy Mellon prefer to sit on comfortable barstools directing mindless youths."
Other recent blunders by the New IRA in Derry include cops recovering the gun used in the terror gang's murder of Lyra McKee.
Niall Sheerin (27) was charged with possessing the weapon following DNA tests. The find came after planned New IRA bomb attacks in Derry and Strabane were foiled by police acting on intelligence tip-offs.
Criticism from other dissident leaders over the cock-ups led Mellon to temporarily quit the terror gang last month, only to come back on board following encouragement from his men.
Yesterday he took part in a demonstration in the Bogside area of the city in support of New IRA prisoners.
The hijackings started late last Tuesday afternoon, the day after the 14-year-old with links to leading hardline republicans was arrested.
Paul Leonard, whose DPD delivery van was among three vehicles destroyed, said he was approached by two masked men who instructed him to hand over the keys to his van. "They snatched the keys from me and told me they were from the IRA and they were taking the van," he added.
"I had a lot of personal belongings in that van. One of the things I had was a picture of my dead grandson. I will never get that back again.
"It's deplorable that these people are ruining people's livelihoods. They need to get a life and get off the backs of the people of Derry."
The New IRA-backed violence continued into Wednesday, with a crowd of 150 youths attacking the PSNI in the Galliagh area. Officers were lured there after receiving reports of a suspicious package.
City mayor Brian Tierney condemned the rioting, describing it as "totally, totally unacceptable".
On Thursday evening a man and woman were forced out of a BMW car on Elaghmore Park by youths who set the vehicle on fire.
The next day two teenagers aged 14 and 15 appeared in court charged with rioting in the Galliagh area. Both were freed on bail until August 21.
Mellon was put on a 10-year MI5 watchlist in 2015 after being sentenced to 15 months in jail for having an article of use to terrorists.
Before that he beat possessing explosives and directing terrorism charges and was investigated but not charged in connection with a robbery at Gransha Hospital.
His New IRA number two Kieran McCool was given an eight-month suspended sentence in 2012 for possessing a stun-gun.
During court proceedings he was identified by police as a "key member" of the violent dissident gang Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD). RAAD merged with the Real IRA in 2012 to form the New IRA.
Sinn Fein met with senior PSNI figures in Derry on Friday to raise concerns about the arrest of the 14-year-old boy that sparked the violence.
However, the intervention was dismissed by the New IRA's political wing Saoradh, which said: "Sinn Fein have never held them (the PSNI) to account. Despite claiming to do so, Sinn Fein has never put manners into them either. It's quite clear that British crown forces don't listen to Sinn Fein."