In a statement posted on One Direction's official Facebook page late Wednesday night, Zayn Malik announced his departure from the five-piece, now four-piece, band.
Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson will continue as a band, the statement says, and are looking forward to the rest of their On the Road Again tour and recording their fifth album, due for release later this year.
"My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined," Malik says in the same statement. "But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I'd like to apologise to the fans if I've let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world."
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On Friday, March 20, Malik announced a leave of absence from the On the Road Again tour. At the time, his spokesman cited stress as the reason why Malik will not be continuing with the tour.
If the frantic tweets are of any indication, One Directioners are heartbroken by the sudden and unexpected news. And while the remaining four must now continue without their bandmate and friend, Horan, Payne, Styles, and Tomlinson have nothing but good wishes for Malik's decision to leave the band.
"We're really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future," the boys said within the Facebook statement. "The four of us will now continue. We're looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour."