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Zayn Malik leaves One Direction, band confirms in a statement

One Direction members Louis Tomlinson, left, and Zayn

One Direction members Louis Tomlinson, left, and Zayn Malik during an event for their film "One Direction: This Is US," in Makuhari, near Tokyo on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. Credit: AP / Koji Sasahara

After taking a leave of absence from the band's concert tour last week, Zayn Malik has formally quit One Direction. The vocal group will continue as a foursome.

"My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined," Malik said in a statement posted on the band's official site and on its Facebook page Wednesday. "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."

He added, referring to the remaining members of the chart-topping group, "I know I have four friends for life in Louis [Tomlinson], Liam [Payne], Harry [Styles] and Niall [Horan]."

The band said in its own statement, "We're really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future. The past five years have been beyond amazing, we've gone through so much together, so we will always be friends. 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."

One Direction, whose fifth album is scheduled for release this year, played Jakarta Wednesday on the band's "On the Road Again Tour." It goes on to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Dubai before taking May off and beginning the European leg on June 5. The band plays MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Aug. 5.

The band announced on March 19 that Malik was leaving the tour temporarily, saying he "has been signed off with stress and is flying back to the UK to recuperate" in the wake of photos showing the engaged singer holding hands with and hugging another woman. Malik's fiancee is 21-year-old Perrie Edwards of the band Little Mix, which won the British edition of "The X Factor" in 2011.

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