In the latest sign that Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction may have been prompted by discord between the bandmates, the 22-year-old has publicly lashed out at Louis Tomlinson on Twitter.
The spat kicked off when Tomlinson launched into yet another war of words with Naughty Boy aka Shahid Khan on the social networking site, after the music producer shared an image of himself and Zayn working in the studio.
Tomlinson made a jibe about the picture writing: "Remember when you were 12 and you used to think those Mac filters for your pictures were cool haha ! Some people still do HA!"
The normally shy Malik spoke out in defence of his friend and lashed out at his former bandmate tweeting back: "@Louis_Tomlinson remember when you had a life and stopped making bitchy comments about mine ?"
The Twitter row continued as Naughty Boy also fired back saying: "and some people can't even sing.. but who's complaining when there's auto tune eh".
Tomlinson responded: "Jesus forgot you were such an in demand producer .... How does it feel to be riding on the back of someone else's career ?"
Naughty Boy replied: "Yeah how does it feel mate? You've been doing that for the last five years... I've got Emeli Sande and Sam smith on my CV."
"good for you , well done !! I think we've done alright in terms of sales and I've happened to write on most. Keep trying !" Tomlinson fired back.
It was then that Malik waded into the row, putting a stop to the online bickering.
However his comments have resulted in a backlash from One Direction fans who were quick to pledge their loyalty to Tomlinson over their former idol.
The hashtag #TomlinsonSlaysAgain was soon trending with the argument spawning over 1 million comments as One Direction supporters expressed their disappointment, directing their ire at Malik.
"Hey, he had a life......unlike you @zaynmalik he's in an amazing band making girls who are sad happy. wbu ?" wrote on fan claiming to represent team Louis.
"@zaynmalik You're losing ALL your fans... What have you done?" wrote another.
"@zaynmalik remember when you had a career" was posted on @1DUpdates
"Everything you have is because of us and you just threw it all away but it's your loss! @zaynmalik" said a former fan.
A few fans showed loyalty for Malik. One sympathiser wrote: "@zaynmalik I still love you & nothing's gonna change that. Wishing u all the very best on your future endeavours & always humble yourself. "
The war of words between Naughty Boy and Tomlinson first began when the music producer posted a demo recording of a song he had produced on which Malik had recorded the vocals. The DJ retweeted a 'Naughty Boy saved Zaughty' video which said 'Zaughty will rise',
Malik had sensationally quit the band just a day earlier and the tweet was posted while fans were still grieving Malik's exit from the boyband.
"@NaughtyBoyMusic you're so inconsiderate pal, seriously how f****** old are you ? Grow up! #masterofallwisdom," tweeted Tomlinson. He went onto accuse the La La La producer of winding the fans up.
Fans were also outraged and blamed Naughty Boy for the sensational split, as Malik walked out on the band mid-way through the world tour.
The 30-year-old attempted to placate the fans writing: "no one is against anyone here. the fans made all of us. not just a chosen few. the love is alive. hate just doesn't belong there."
Making his first public appearance at The Asian Awards where he was recognised for his Outstanding Contribution to Music, Malik paid tribute to his former bandmates stating: "I'd like to take this moment to thank four of the best guys that I ever met whilst being in the band and doing all the amazing things that I did. Some of the things that we did will stay with me for the rest of my life and I'm thankful for that."
After stating that he wanted to live "a normal life" Malik is now believed to be focused on a solo album produced by Naughty Boy. The first single is expected to be released in 2016.