New IRA chief Thomas Mellon has been accused of ordering two shootings in Derry in an effort to quell a revolt against his leadership.
Mellon - who is on a 10-year MI5 terror watch-list - is under pressure with questions being asked about his leadership by senior members of the terror gang.
"That was the reason he had his men kneecap those two fellas, to divert attention from this and so he can say it's business as usual."
The punishment-style shootings by appointment took place on Friday night at Creggan Heights in Derry, and in the Southway area of the city 48 hours earlier.
Foyle SDLP MP Colum Eastwood (right) condemned both attacks, with the latest also resulting in a car being set on fire, saying: "The people of Derry do not want this. They (New IRA) must stop terrorising our community now."
PSNI Detective Sergeant Gavin McLaughlin added: "This barbaric shooting in a residential area bears all the hallmarks of a paramilitary-style assault.
"Those responsible for this criminal act do not represent the interests of this community, nor do they contribute anything to it."
Prominent hardline republicans including Davy Jordan, Damien 'DD' McLaughlin and Kevin Barry Murphy are facing charges of directing terrorism having been allegedly recorded at secret summits by MI5 agent Dennis McFadden. Mellon avoided being caught as he never attended the meetings but double-agent McFadden's infiltration of the New IRA wrecked havoc on its Derry unit.
Two of Mellon's closest allies, Joe Barr (32) and Gary 'Musky' Hayden (48), have also been charged with directing terrorism having been accused of attending the MI5-bugged meetings organised by McFadden.
"The New IRA's Derry brigade has been basically going it alone since it murdered Lyra McKee two years ago," added our source.
"Tommy was furious that all the other units across the north failed to show it any support, and since then he has been doing his own thing."
Mellon was jailed for 14 months in 2015 for attempting to smuggle a note detailing New IRA activities onto the dissident wing of Maghaberry Prison. However, he beat the much more serious charge of directing terrorism.
The 44-year-old was convicted by a non-jury court in 2007 of impeding the apprehension of an offender following a robbery, for which he received a suspended sentence. He has led the New IRA in Derry since the terror gang's formation in 2012 with dissidents Fergal Melaugh, who is aged in his 60s, and Kieran McCool (52) serving as his lieutenants.
Meanwhile, PSNI patrols have been warned to be wary of being lured into parts of Derry due to fears of an impending New IRA attack.
Intelligence indicates the gang plans to use hoax calls about house parties breaching coronavirus restrictions to trick cops into an ambush.
The New IRA is desperate to successfully target police to prove it has not been completely decimated by MI5 mole McFadden.
A security source said: "A similar tactic was used last year by the Continuity IRA in Fermanagh and Craigavon and it almost worked.
"Officers have been told to be careful about any calls coming in about house parties in the Creggan as they could be ambushes."